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Dry drowning ?

by lisab
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lisab
#1
Jun5-08, 11:03 PM
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I read an odd story today about a 10-year-old boy who died by drowning an hour after he left the water. It's called "dry drowning":

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24982210/

I've never heard of such a thing!

Does this happen mostly to children? Can it happen to anyone, or do you have to be susceptible to it?
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mgb_phys
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Jun5-08, 11:54 PM
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I was a diving instructor and this is one of the most common ways people drown.
The victim gets into difficulties in water and breath water into the lungs, the lungs are irritated or scarred and later fill with fluid.
It's very important to persuade rescued simmers to go to hospital even if they appear ok when pulled out of the water.

As far as I know there is no particular susceptibility - although children do play in and get into difficulties in water more than adults.
Moonbear
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Jun6-08, 03:56 PM
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The report I saw on the news reported it as fairly uncommon, and did suggest individuals may have to have a particular susceptibility to it (this is different from someone who has actually had a near-drowning while in the water).

When I heard the report, I wondered if it might have more to do with the levels of chlorination in the pools that kids are more susceptible to. I sort of recall times when I'd come from from a day swimming at a community or hotel pool that was far more chlorinated than our home pool and really having a sore throat and cough with a burning sensation just from inhaling all that chlorine. Never experienced anything like that no matter how much water I swallowed if I was out in the bay in salt water rather than a chlorinated pool.

Though, when they talk about symptoms of lethargy and such, I wonder if it's really TWO problems combined that have the fatal outcome. You'd think if you had fluid building in your lungs, you'd be coughing pretty strongly before it got bad enough to affect blood oxygen levels and induce lethargy, so maybe it's that they've overheated/dehydrated and are already in crisis when they're becoming lethargic, and that leaves them too weak or otherwise incapable of coughing up any fluids leading to the drowning.

Just sort of thinking aloud here though since all I know about it is the little bit that's been in the news the past two days.

lisab
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Jun6-08, 05:53 PM
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Dry drowning ?

Quote Quote by Moonbear View Post
The report I saw on the news reported it as fairly uncommon, and did suggest individuals may have to have a particular susceptibility to it (this is different from someone who has actually had a near-drowning while in the water).

When I heard the report, I wondered if it might have more to do with the levels of chlorination in the pools that kids are more susceptible to. I sort of recall times when I'd come from from a day swimming at a community or hotel pool that was far more chlorinated than our home pool and really having a sore throat and cough with a burning sensation just from inhaling all that chlorine. Never experienced anything like that no matter how much water I swallowed if I was out in the bay in salt water rather than a chlorinated pool.

Though, when they talk about symptoms of lethargy and such, I wonder if it's really TWO problems combined that have the fatal outcome. You'd think if you had fluid building in your lungs, you'd be coughing pretty strongly before it got bad enough to affect blood oxygen levels and induce lethargy, so maybe it's that they've overheated/dehydrated and are already in crisis when they're becoming lethargic, and that leaves them too weak or otherwise incapable of coughing up any fluids leading to the drowning.

Just sort of thinking aloud here though since all I know about it is the little bit that's been in the news the past two days.
That was a question I had, also - why no vigorous coughing was reported. It would make sense that if the person is already suffering severe oxygen deprivation, there would be no coughing.
russ_watters
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Jun6-08, 07:20 PM
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I'd never heard of it either, but regardless, I would think that a person in that condition would show some sign of distress. Ie, this child was sleepy at a time he shouldn't have been. Perhaps that was too subtle of a sign, though.
mgb_phys
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Jun6-08, 09:39 PM
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My experience of it as only when someone had been involved in a near drowning incident and had aspirated water and/or had needed artificial respiration.

I hadn't heard of someone with no other symptoms - is this just some sort of asthma?
Moonbear
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Jun6-08, 10:06 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
I'd never heard of it either, but regardless, I would think that a person in that condition would show some sign of distress. Ie, this child was sleepy at a time he shouldn't have been. Perhaps that was too subtle of a sign, though.
I think it would be hard to tell that lethargy was a sign of a problem in a kid who had been outside in the sun and playing in a pool all day.

Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
My experience of it as only when someone had been involved in a near drowning incident and had aspirated water and/or had needed artificial respiration.

I hadn't heard of someone with no other symptoms - is this just some sort of asthma?
Basically, it sounds like they're describing pulmonary edema. There can be a lot of causes for that, such as congestive heart disease and pneumonia. Nobody I've talked to about this story has ever heard of this before as related to swimming. It seems more like one of those really odd quirks you probably can't predict or do much about. Who knows, maybe the kid in question did inhale a lot of water at some point but managed to cough it up before anyone noticed he was in trouble? Or maybe he had some other underlying pathology and the swimming and exercise just exacerbated the problem to a critical stage.

With this hitting the news for something that is a really rare problem for a child, I'm worried that there will now be a bunch of neurotic, over-protective parents dragging perfectly healthy children off to the ER just because they're plain old tuckered out and sleepy at the end of a long day of running around and playing in a pool.
GeorginaS
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Jun6-08, 10:37 PM
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There's another short article about it here Boy Drowned During Nap and it says that he soiled himself twice before napping. The article didn't say whether that was a normal occurrence for this 10-year-old boy or not, but, if not, coupled with his complaints of lethargy, that would be sufficient to raise a warning flag that something was wrong to me. I'm not saying the mother did anything wrong, however it may be, if people are trying to raise awareness of this problem, that this is a warning sign to take note of.

On another note, I spent the entirety of my summer days in a swimming pool from the time I was about 3 onwards. There was a very nice community centre in our neighbourhood, and my sister, my mother, and I spent every day, all day there through the summer. My sister and I both knew how to swim (that's another rant about giving kids floatation devices rather than teaching them how to swim) and while my mother laid in the sun and worked on her tan (hey, the sun was supposedly safe forty-odd years ago) we were in and out of a full-sized swimming pool without ill effect. Us along with dozens, dozens of other screaming kids.

I give that anecdotal bit of evidence because surely I inhaled (I sure swallowed) a quantity of water each and every day. I'm wondering if this boy didn't have some sort of pre-existing lung condition that made him susceptible to this. The article I posted talks about how much vigilant supervision children need while in pools, aside from lifeguards. That makes me look at my computer monitor sideways. Yes, children need supervision and to be watched but constant attention? I just don't think so.


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