What is Secondary Drowning?

Secondary Drowning is a term most parents do not recognize. Nor do they understand that it can be fatal to their young children. Secondary drowning is a condition where a small amount of inhaled fluid (such as water) remains in the lung or lungs and irritates the lung(s) and leading to leakage of additional bodily fluids into the lung(s). Often secondary drowning happens when a small child inhales water at the swimming pool – but it can happen in the bathtub too. However, it is not limited to water – it could be milk or juice or other liquid.

In serious cases the small child is experiencing pulmonary edema – a condition where the body actually pushes more fluids into the lung(s). This accumulation of fluids over time reduces the child’s ability to breathe properly and can lead to the child drowning in its bodily fluids – hence the term secondary drowning.

The World Health Organization issued a report about ten years ago that was designed to improve prevention and reporting of drowning. According to the organization, there are six types of drowning and secondary drowning is only one of those.

What are the Symptoms of Secondary Drowning?

After inhaling water or other fluid, the child is:

  • very tired
  • unusual cough
  • unusual behaviour
  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing and wheezing
  • non-responsive

What is the Time Period?

The time period can be short – an hour or two – or up to 3 days. Every situation is different so it is critical that the parents take action if they observe any of the symptoms mentioned earlier. DO NOT PUT THE CHILD IN BED FOR THE NIGHT.

Does Secondary Drowning cause Death?

Yes. And it can happen quickly. There have been numerous cases of parents not recognizing the symptoms and putting their child to bed for the night – and the child never wakes up. If you have any doubts about your child’s condition then it is best to be cautious and take the child to a doctor or emergency room.

And please share you knowledge of secondary drowning with others – especially parents with young children.