Our Family

Our Family

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Drowning

In July of 2005 when we were at a hotel swimming pool, Nick lost his footing on the stairs and went right under the water. He panicked and could not get his foot back on the stair. Art was in the water just a few steps away helping Alex to swim, and I was right on the edge of the pool but those few seconds that it took me to pull Nick out were the longest few seconds of my life. I pulled him out and he was fine (thank you God) but not everyone is so lucky.

Drowning is the second most common cause of death in children in the United States. I knew that the number was high and try to always watch my children like hawks while they are swimming. I have read before that people think someone makes a lot of commotion when they are drowning, but that is not true. Most of the time they will slip silently under the water and go undetected until it is too late. Children need to be carefully supervised when they are swimming. What I didn't know was that were two other types of drowning that we as parents and caregivers need to watch out for.

There are two theories as to what causes dry drowning, which is drowning with no water found in the lungs. A sudden rush of water into the throat can cause the airway to snap shut and although no water enters the lungs, no air can enter either so the victim dies of asphyxiation. The second theory says that the shock of extremely cold water causes the heart to stop. To prevent our children (or ourselves) from becoming victims of dry drowning, we need to teach them to keep their mouths closed when jumping or diving into water and also to enter very cold water slowly. People who have a history of heart problems should avoid very cold water completely.

Secondary or delayed drowning is when a small amount of water enters the lungs and prevents them from transporting oxygen into the bloodstream. Death can occur several hours after this happens. You may have read about a 10 year old boy in South Carolina who died from this recently. Caregivers should monitor very closely any child who comes out of the water coughing and sputtering, especially keeping an eye out for further difficulties in breathing, extreme tiredness, or marked changes in behavior, all of which are signs that a swimmer may have inhaled a dangerous amount of fluid. If any of the signs are observed the child needs to be taken immediately to an emergency room.
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