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Secondary Drowning: Causes, Signs & Prevention

Secondary Drowning: Causes, Signs & Prevention
July 11, 2015 Melissa Bauman

Secondary Drowning
With this Saturday being the first official day of summer, pools and waterparks will be packed with parents and their children. While kids live for the pool during these hot summer months, there is a hidden danger lurking beneath the water, unknown to many parents.

What is secondary drowning?
Secondary drowning can be difficult to recognize. After a near-drowning experience, the victim will often seem to be okay. However, sometimes a child will retain a very small amount of water in his or her lungs—even though it seems like he or she has coughed the majority of it up. Since this happens slowly the child could be walking around and talking without showing any problematic symptoms.

However, the water slowly builds up in the lungs, which is known as a pulmonary edema, preventing the lungs from properly working. The body’s natural reaction is to send other fluids within your body to help the lungs. This fluid ultimately ends up flooding the lungs. If not recognized quickly, oxygen will not be able to reach the bloodstream, which will eventually prevent the heart from beating. As a result, the child could go into cardiac arrest.

What are the signs of secondary drowning?
Symptoms are usually very difficult to pinpoint in younger kiddos. However, if your child does encounter a near-drowning experience, here are some symptoms you should keep an eye out for:

  • Difficulty breathing, chest pain, or a cough
  • Unexplained behavior changes
  • Unusual fatigue

What should you do if you think your child is experiencing secondary drowning?
If you believe that your child is experiencing secondary drowning, take them to the emergency room immediately. Time is of the essence in secondary drowning cases.

How can you prevent secondary drowning?
The most important thing you can do for your little ones is to constantly keep an eye on them while they are in and around the pool. Also, enrolling children in swim lessons when they are old enough is another great precaution to take.


  1. Laurie 2 years ago

    It was many years before I had ever heard of secondary drowning. I hear a lot more about this now, it seems like there is more awareness which is great.


  1. […] prevent pain. Other injuries to be mindful of in summer months are dehydration, swimmers ear, and secondary drowning. Having children active in sports is proven to improve their overall wellbeing. We want to be sure […]

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