Parents: Secondary Drowning in Children

· February 16, 2016
Secondary drowning can occur hours or even days after being in the water. It is essential to inform the treating physician as soon as possible.

With the arrival of summer, it’s normal to hear about unfortunate drownings at pools and beaches. It’s a sad reality that affects both adults and children, and special attention needs to be paid to the latter.

Keep an eye on their movement when they’re getting in the water and make sure there is a grate in place over the filter. Keeping these types of material risks to a minimum is vital for children to safely enjoy a swim.

We’re sure that you also shudder at the news of these terrible accidents in which children have lost their lives by drowning.

However, there is another type of accident that is not as well-known that takes the lives of several children each year.

We’re talking about secondary drowning. This case involves children and adults who have nearly drowned, been rescued and resuscitated.

They return home feeling normal, but after hours or a few days, they start to feel really tired, lie down to sleep and never wake up. Terrible, but true.

We’d like to tell you about secondary drowning for the safety of you and your little ones.

Secondary drowning: a silent death


We’ll start by telling you a story that happened recently. Lindsay Kujawa is known for her original blog about recipes, crafts, the personal reflections of a mother, etc.

The Huffington Post and other media jumped on the story almost immediately and it was soon on her own blog: her son had nearly drowned in the pool during a party. He was under the water for several seconds and, fortunately, they were able to revive him.

All was well, but even so, Lindsay told her pediatrician what had happened and left a message on his answering machine. She was surprised at the specialist’s rapid reaction as he told her to take her child to the emergency room as soon as possible.

When Lindsay went to get her son, she realized that all he wanted to do was sleep. He was very tired and began to limp. Something had happened. After several tests at the hospital, the information could not be clearer.

Also read: 10 Toxins that Harm Children

The child’s lungs were irritated and inflamed from the chemicals in the pool’s water. His oxygen levels were falling every second. He was drowning without even realizing it.

The doctors were able to save the child after giving him the necessary medical attention and care. His luck was the result of the quick reaction of the doctors, pediatrician and Lindsay Kujawa, who was mindful enough to inform her child’s doctor about what had happened almost immediately.

But not all stories have such a happy ending. Many children end up dying this way. After a near drowning, up to three days can pass without any clear symptoms of a problem, which leads to tragedy.

Things you should know about secondary drowning and dry drowning


  • Dry drowning occurs when the body and brain “feel” like water is going to be inhaled. This causes a spasm of the larynx, which closes as a way to protect the body. Water can’t get in, but neither can air, leaving the victim to go without oxygen.
  • Secondary drowning often occurs when water enters the lungs and stagnates. The child can be revived, but the trapped water soon becomes a case of pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema may not show any signs of a problem at first, but hours and even days later it can cause death.
  • We also need to keep in mind that the water in pools contains a lot of chemicals. If it becomes trapped in the lungs, it can inflame and irritate them.
  • Chlorine is a strong bronchial irritant.
  • After a drowning incident, the child may expel some of the water and be revived, but there still may be some water trapped in the lungs. After a few hours, this water inflames the bronchial tubes, causing edema, and lower oxygen levels in the blood as a consequence.

Also read: 6 Cough Remedies for Children



  • If your child was involved in a drowning incident, no matter how small, and even if they recover, it doesn’t matter: take them to the emergency room.
  • Never lose sight of your children while they are in the water.
  • Teach them to swim as early as possible.
  • Even if you trust they’re confident swimmers, they still may get light-headed or caught on something in the pool, so it’s worth playing policeman and monitoring their activity.

Enjoy the water with your children in the summer, but keep in mind the information you’ve just learned. It’s worth it!