With Summer here on Cape Cod it is important to practice #WaterSafety and be able to recognize the signs of Secondary Drowning! As parents, we never want to see anything happen to our wonderful children but with water sometimes we have limited control. We have covered some important topics before regarding Water Safety but it is important to focus on Secondary Drowning as this can occur anywhere from 1-24 hours after having being exposed, which means it can really sneak up on you if you do not know what to look for.
"Secondary Drowning (and near-drowning) is one of the post-immersion respiratory syndromes. It is defined as deterioration of pulmonary function that follows deficient gas exchange due to loss or inactivation of surfactant."
This basically means a person (children or an adult) inhales even a small gush of water (bath, pool, lake or ocean) it can irritate the lungs and cause swelling. Usually very little water is present in the lungs when secondary drowning occurs, but the small amount of liquid is enough to hinder the lungs ability to provide oxygen to the bloodstream.
The definition of secondary drowning is a matter of controversy and the term is probably inappropriate. Secondary drowning is a misnomer because victims who develop acute respiratory distress syndrome after drowning have not had a second submersion episode.
According to the WHO, "Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid." This definition does not imply fatality, or even the necessity for medical treatment after removal of the cause, nor that any fluid necessarily enters the lungs." The WHO recommends though that this term not be used as really what is occurring is drowning, the term secondary can be misleading. But for lack of a better way to help people understand "Secondary Drowning" is the term used by the general public.
Secondary Drowning can happen after being at the beach, pond, pool or even the bathtub so it is important to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms as it just might help you save a life later!
The Pool Safely campaign and USA Swimming released statistics in June 2014 on drowning deaths in spas and pools in the U.S. According to their data there have already been 95 drowning deaths through May 31 in children under 14. Seventy-four of these deaths involved children under five. They do not track how many of these deaths were from secondary drowning.
"Dr. Paul Pepe, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said although this is an uncommon scenario it does happen. He said three or four hours later children who fall into a pool can develop pulmonary edema even if rushed to the emergency room immediately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not differentiate between drowning and secondary drowning, so statistics on how often the situation occurs are hard to find, although WebMD says it is probably on 1-2 percent of all drownings. However, according to Pepe, drowning is the number one cause of deaths among children under the age of five. He says it takes only “the blink of an eye” for a child to get water in their lungs that can cause drowning. He said that in secondary drowning, pool water can damage the lining of the lungs, essentially causing lung failure hours after the child is out of the pool." (Source)
See this recent news story for one mom who remembered the signs after seeing it on the news and then acted immediately to save her child's life!
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