Know the risks of Dry Drowning before your next family pool trip!

Dry Drowning and also called Delayed Drowning

Most parents stay on guard when their child goes swimming. Playing lifeguard pool or shore side is just one more duty parents have to handle. By the time the kiddos are toweled off, most parents think their lifeguard duties are over. Not so fast.

The dangers of drowning, unfortunately, do not end after your child leaves the water. They are still at risk. Doctors call this condition ‘dry drowning,’ or ‘delayed drowning’. Let’s define what dry drowning is and how you can be on the lookout for it.

What is Dry Drowning?

The name ‘dry drowning’ can be confusing. Put simply, dry drowning is the same thing that comes to mind when you think of drowning except it happens outside of the water.

Dry drowning can also happen up to 24 hours after your child has left the water. Accidental consumption of an extreme amount of water can lead to drowning from the inside, rather than being physically drowned from the outside. When a child inhales water into their lungs, their vocal cords begin to spasm. This can cause death if left untreated.

Delayed drowning is a bit different in that water gets into the lungs where it prevents oxygen from making it to the blood. Your child will start to have difficulty breathing over the course of a few hours thereafter if they’re delayed drowning.

Red Flags to Look For

Unfortunately, since you likely can’t keep your eyes on your child every second, it’s important to know what the warning signs are. It’s difficult to know if your child has inhaled or swallowed water, but if they have there are a few symptoms to keep in mind. These include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Chest Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Major Fatigue
  • Blue Lips & Pale Skin
  • Changes in Mood

Seek Medical Attention

If you notice any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. The hospital will perform an X-Ray and will also start an IV if necessary. The sooner you recognize these symptoms the better chance your child has of survival.

Don’t Panic!

While this condition is very serious, it only happens in about 2% of drowning cases. Most drowning incidents occur in the water, and as long as you watch your children while they play most problems can be avoided.

The only real way to protect your child from dry drowning is to get in the water with them. Staying within arm’s reach prevents any serious incidents from occurring. It’s also a good idea to get your child into swim lessons so they can safely enjoy the water.

Don’t let your child become a victim. Stay alert and know the signs of dry drowning to prevent your child from getting hurt.


Laurie has 20 years of experience in Pediatric nursing. Currently she is an ER travel nurse and loves it. A proud mother of a 19 year old daughter who is approaching her second year at the University of Arkansas. She loves to travel, spend time with her daughter, and friends. Hobbies include snorkeling, fishing, and promoting the safety of children!