Oct 26, 2017

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.

According 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

Believe 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 breathe.

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 discomfort/pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Progressing Fatigue (due to the declining levels of normal oxygenation, there may be a behavior change from the brain not receiving enough oxygen.)


Dry 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 possible
  •  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 AHealthierMichigan.org.

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

Metro Detroit Mommy Writer: