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July 21, 2024

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Protect Kids From Drowning This Summer

How is it possible that a child can drown when others are around? Distraction. Unfortunately, drowning remains a leading, cause of death for children; "secondary drowning" and "dry drowning" are real, too.

Swimming and summer go hand-in-hand for kids. So do pool parties and fun barbecues where parents can get distracted with friends and neighbors. No adult or lifeguard stops supervising kids in water on purpose, it's just that unintentional accidents can happen in the blink of an eye.
    The American Red Cross says that's why you need to be extra diligent if your child is going to be playing and swimming in any body of water during summer break. But even if your child is walking on dry land, there are rare incidences of secondary drowning and dry drowning that you need to be aware of:

Dry drowning

— is when a child inhales water through the nose or mouth, causing a spasm in the airway and difficult breathing. It's called "dry" drowning because the water does not even enter the lungs. If the vocal cords do not release after the spasm, air cannot get to the lungs.
If your child is experiencing dry drowning, signs will show up. Here's what to watch for:

Signs to watch out for
(if you see these symptoms, call your pediatrician promptly)

• difficulty breathing
• persistent coughing
• choking
• lethargy or sleepiness
• irritability
• vomiting

Secondary drowning

— is when a child inhales water into his lungs, causing swelling. The problem is, this swelling can happen hours or even days after the initial water inhalation. It can be fatal due to the swelling of the small air sacs in the lungs that prevent oxygen from entering the blood stream.

Signs to watch out for:
(if you see these symptoms, call your pediatrician promptly)

• lethargy or extreme fatigue
• difficulty breathing
• irritability or mood swings
• chest pain
• shortness of breath
• persistent cough
• fever


• Always swim in a lifeguarded area or with adult supervision. NEVER swim alone.
• Inexperienced swimmers — and all boaters — should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets
• All children should learn water safety and survival skills
• Provide close and constant attention to children playing in and around water


The Red Cross's Tennessee Chapters offer swimming and water safety classes.


About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.