Only On 6: Dry Drowning

Only on 6: Dry Drowning

With summer 2013 nearly upon us, bringing with it scorching triple-digit heat, children across the state of Texas anxiously await a break from school and relief from the temperatures poolside. Although the cool water brings excitement to kids, for parents, the dangers of drowning mean pools are anything but a safe haven.

Although the risk of drowning is a familiar one for Texoma parents, especially during the summer months, new concerns have come to light; a somewhat unknown type of drowning called 'dry drowning.'

Dry drownings occur in 15% of drowning cases. In Texas, that number is steadily increasing.

Dr. Daunne P. Peters, a pediatrician at the Clinics Of North Texas, said, "Dry drowning is when a child is submerged in water, but doesn't inhale fluid, so the lungs are completely dry." Dr. Peters continued, "Your voice box, or your larynx, closes off. Water just gets in your mouth, but you do get hypoxic."

When someone suffers from dry drowning, they lose oxygen and blood to their vital organs. What it possibly most frightening is the fact that these symptoms are often not immediately noticed. They show up later.

"Dry drowning is much trickier. It's much sneakier and much less obvious than a regular drowning," said Noel Filer, the Mission Advancement Director at YMCA of Wichita Falls.

Regardless of the specific type of drowning – whether 'wet,' or 'dry,' experts said summertime safety is centered on prevention and therefore, preparation.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention recommends three tips for parents:

  1. Enroll your children in formal swimming lessons. Research finds taking part in formal swimming lessons reduces the risk of drowning among children one to four-years-old.

  2. Become C.P.R. certified. C.P.R. performed by lifeguards or bystanders saves lives and drastically improves the outcome of drowning incidents. Officials with the C.D.C. said the sooner C.P.R. is started, the greater the odds of a positive outcome.

  3. Be sure your children wear life jackets. For young or inexperienced swimmers, research indicates life jackets or floaties can make a world of difference.

Doctors stress the importance of paying attention to your children anytime they are outside by a pool or body of water (i.e. lakes, rivers, and/or ponds). Medical professionals take this recommendation even further when a child endures a near-drowning experience.

Symptoms of dry drowning include:

  • Irregularities in breathing, bowel movements, and urination.

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Behavioral changes.

  • Lethargy.

Doctor Peters said, in addition to the symptoms written above, "the only thing that parents need to be looking for is a change in their child… something that's not normal."

If symptoms persist, taking a victim to the emergency room, usually within 48 hours of the time of the incident, is a matter of life and death. Although a patient or his/her parents may not notice the symptoms or seriousness of the incident right away, victims of dry drowning can suffer renal failure, cardiac failure, and brain abnormalities.

Sarah Babbel understands the risks of drowning and is familiar with dry drowning. As a mother of five children and the owner of a pool, for Babbel, the dangers of dry drowning hit close to home… taking the risk on dry land.

"It's something I have nightmares about. I don't want to find one of my kids at the bottom of a pool," said Babbel.

Babbel's youngest daughter is only four-years-old. Last summer, she was walking alongside the family pool, fully dressed, and then fell in. She nearly drowned if not for her oldest sister who jumped in to save her. Because Sarah Babbel knew dry drowning is fatal, she took the necessary precautions to be sure her daughter was not in any serious danger.

After the Babbel family's close call, Sarah Babbel now understands and enforces the C.D.C.'s safety recommendations.

"We have rules. You don't come out here if I'm not home," said Babbel.

Although she admits that as a mother and pool owner she will always be slightly paranoid about swim safety, Babbel said taking the steps to prevent similar incidents is essential.

Brittany Glas, Newschannel 6