Dry and Secondary Drowning: What You Should Know

With Six Metro Detroit Locations to serve you in Canton, Novi, Sterling Heights, Troy, Auburn Hills and Farmington Hills.

By: Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey, associate medical
director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die every
day from unintentional drowning. Of those, two are children ages 14 or younger.
Drowning ranks fifth among unintentional injury-related deaths in the United
States. If your child is a swimmer, it’s important to know how to ensure a fun
and safe experience, inside and outside of the water.

Dry Drowning

it or not, the risk of drowning doesn’t just exist while immersed in water. Dry
drowning can occur up to 24 hours after water exposure—whether that’s in a pool
or bathtub. When it occurs, water does
not actually enter the lungs, it hits the vocal cords which can then begin to
spasm and subsequently close, thereby compromising an individual’s ability to

Secondary Drowning

This complication also occurs after water
exposure. Unlike dry drowning, water enters the lungs. Not only can this
ultimately compromise breathing, water is tremendously irritating to the lungs
and can strip off a very important and ubiquitous lung-lining fluid called
surfactant. Once the surfactant is stripped away, the lung architecture
begins to destabilize and the multitude of small, air-filled sacs in the lungs
begin to degrade and collapse, causing what is called a pulmonary Edema (fluid
build-up in the lungs).  

Warning Signs

If your child experiences trouble breathing, coughing, sleepiness,
chest pain or vomiting, he or she may have taken in water while swimming. Consult
a nurse line or primary care provider immediately if your child experiences any
of the following symptoms:
  • Coughing
  • Chest
  • Difficulty
  • Progressing
    Fatigue (due to the declining levels of normal oxygenation, there may be a
    behavior change from the brain not receiving enough oxygen.)


and secondary drowning can be easily prevented by taking proper safety
precautions. Consider the following steps to avoid water-related injuries:
  • Enroll your child in professional
    swimming lessons. Some facilities, including Aqua-Tots,
    teach proper breathing control in their classes that can be helpful in
    preventing dry drowning
  •  Teach your child to swim as early as
  •  Never leave a child unattended while
    swimming—even if a lifeguard is present
  •  Practice swimming safety as a family

Dr. T. Jann Caison-Sorey is an associate
medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more tips on how to
live a healthier lifestyle, visit

More About Aqua-Tots

Teaching kids to swim has been the foundation of Aqua-Tots since they began. And today they still take special care to make sure their swim schools are a welcoming, comfortable and inviting place for kids of all ages at our Detroit area locations including Canton, Novi, Sterling Heights, Troy, Auburn Hills and Farmington Hills. Aqua-Tots Swim Schools of Michigan offers swim classes for babies, toddlers, infants, kids, swim team, adults, and children with special needs at over 70 locations worldwide. With never more than 4 students per swim class, this intimate setting provides a great environment for children learning to swim. Call to schedule your COMPLIMENTARY in water evaluation and tour today.
Troy 248-845-4545
Sterling Heights 586-844-3633
Novi 248-845-4544
Canton 734-828-2000
Farmington Hills 248-537-4004
Auburn Hills 248-537-4005

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