Dry drowning: What parents need to know

The truth about dry drowning

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Lately we've been hearing a lot in the news about a seemingly new tragedy -- dry drowning.

WZZM 13 Health Reporter Valerie Lego talks with Pediatric Emergency Physician Dr. Erica Michiels with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital about what dry drowning is and why parents don't need to be fearful.

Here are the facts
According to Michiels, dry drowning happens hours after a child has been out of the water, “It's from a lung injury that occurred when they were in the water -- so maybe they breathed in water or had a serious event where they needed to be rescued."

The lungs become injured from that event and hours later the lungs get inflamed and they don't do their job well, Michiels explained. 

►Related: Family warns of 'dry drowning' after son dies days after swimming

Most important
Dr. Michiels says your child is going to have symptoms that continue to escalate, “They're going to be coughing and sputtering, they may even cough up some blood. Young children will initially be fussy or irritable and then sleepy or lethargic -- you can see they are having difficulty breathing.

However, older children will complain that their chest hurts. These symptoms will progress over a period of hours, not something that happens in an instant, Michiels warned.

Above all, Dr. Michiels wants to remind parents that instances of dry drowning are rare, “I think a lot of our parents have the idea that something could have happened in the water they had no idea.

Their kid could look completely normal when they put them to bed and then something tragic is going to happen in the middle of the night and that's just not the way that this kind of injury progresses.”

Only 20% of drowning cases are considered to be dry drowning.

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