Dry drowning: What it is and how to prevent it

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Most people know the causes and how to prevent drowning, but what about dry drowning?

Health experts define “drowning” as trouble breathing when water gets into your lungs. Dry drowning happens after a person leaves the water. although it’s rare, it is more common in children.

Doctor Sadaf Sohrab, MD, said dry drowning is not the same as just swallowing water.

“The problem happens when you inhale the water and it goes into your lungs,” said Sohrab.

If an individual inhales even just a teaspoon of water, it can pass through the windpipe and cause the body’s voice box to spasm.

“Then when it goes into spasm, those vocal cords are closed, and so no air can go in and out and the person basically, asphyxiates,” said Sohrab.

Although dry drowning is more common in children, it is likely the cause of a 50-year-old woman’s death. She died while seeking help at a fire station after leaving Table Rock Lake. Click on the link below to read the full story.

Sohrab said the symptoms will typically happen within an hour.

“They would be breathing fast, They would be short of breath,” said Sohrab. “They would be using extra muscles to breathe and might turn blue if it’s based on cough and wheezing and saying that they’re short of breath. So these are the symptoms that you need to look for.”

The spasm, according to Sohrab, is usually a panic reaction. However, once the vocal cords close, it isn’t easy to treat.

“It would be obvious to make sure you keep calm,” said Sohrab. “The parents are calm, the kids are calm, and then you seek medical help.”

The best way to avoid complications altogether is to make sure to never leave children alone near the water, make sure lifeguards are on duty, or have a fence around the pool at home.

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