Can my child “dry drown?”

There is always a lot of fear when it comes to having your child put under water, especially for the first time. A lot of parents ask me about dry drowning and if going under the water puts their child at risk for that. The simple answer, is no. 

Can my child “dry drown?”

Where does the term come from?

There are a lot of terms that involve the word “drown” that strike fear and worry in parents. However, there are no medically accepted terms known as near-drowning, dry drowning, and secondary drowning. 

The medical definition of drowning is “the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid.” “Drowning only has three outcomes: fatal drowning, nonfatal drowning with injury or illness, or nonfatal drowning without injury or illness.” Dry drowning has been a misused term used to describe the lack of water in the lungs at an autopsy. The real danger of drowning is not the water getting in the lungs, but the lack of oxygen getting to the brain. Only small amounts of water enter the lungs of the victims, but if they are rescued before the brain runs out of oxygen then that small amount of water will be absorbed by the body and causes no problems. 

The body has brilliant defense mechanisms to ensure that the body does not get water in the lungs. The body will most likely enact a Laryngospasm if it realizes the body is inhaling water. To stop the inhalation of water the body makes the voice box, or larynx, spasm. This spasm occurs right above the trachea, which is the wind pipe in the throat. This spasm closes off the throat so that inhalation cannot occur, which means water nor oxygen is entering the body. This is why very little water enters the lungs in a drowning victim. The main danger in drowning is the brain not getting oxygen, and if deprived for too long can end in fatality or brain damage. 

Learning to float
Learning to float first is an essential skill in our survival swim program.

How can I best protect my child?

I hope this information was comforting and informative. Dry drowning is not something to fear, let alone acknowledge. Going under water for the first time can be nerve wrecking, but is completely safe for your child. Going under water is also a crucial aspect for a child to learn so that they can learn to hold their breath. Once they get over the initial shock of going under water, more often than not, kids love getting to swim under water or even just putting their face in the water. 

Drowning is the leading cause of death ages 1-4. Knowing this, this is why OSA is survival-based. We know the importance of a child needing to know how to get into a safe float from any position. Floating allows the child to breathe safely until a parent or guardian is able to get to them and bring them to safety. The myth of “dry drowning” should not deter you from enrolling your child into swim lessons. We teach lifesaving skills and a love for the water, while also giving parents peace of mind.