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Secondary drowning: Know the signs!

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Did you know that your kids can be breathing, talking, and walking around all while drowning?! Neither did I...

I'll wager that most parents are not aware that a kid can have water in their lungs and yet be upright. But they can. It's called "secondary drowning." Water can enter the lungs and the child can still walk and talk because their heart has not stopped working. But "the water may fill up some of the oxygen-rich pores of the lungs, reducing the lungs' ability to oxygenate the blood as it passes through." This can be deadly, and if you notice the below symptoms, get your child to the ER stat!

This is absolutely terrifying! Especially in Florida, where water fun is year round. We love our beach, pool time, and springs trips. And now as we are full into summer, the time spent in the water will undoubtedly increase. We worrying moms and dads know that water can be dangerous, but we probably feel we can assess accurately whether our kids are in danger of drowning. But, we may not always have enough information.

This can happen out of the water too. Any liquid that has been inhaled can cause aspiration.

So, parents, let's all educate ourselves about the signs of secondary drowning because we may be using the wrong cues to determine whether our kids are okay.

Just because they appear to have coughed it all up, doesn't mean they are okay!
*Water is not always expelled completely with coughing
*Any child who has inhaled water should be monitored carefully for several hours afterwards!

Look for:

  • Changes in behavior (no matter how slight -- trust your gut feeling)
  • Changes in energy level
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Involuntary defecation

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician or go directly to the ER.

Water Safety Training Locally:

Water Safety for Kids:

Other Resources:

Read one mom's terrifying close-call:



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