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What Parents Need to Know and Look Out for to Prevent ‘Dry Drowning’

If you’ve never heard of “dry drowning,” you may want to pay attention to a Fox News Cleveland report of a child who “drowned” even though he was nowhere near the water. Unbeknownst to his parents, the child had apparently inhaled water while swimming a few days earlier. He didn’t appear in distress at the time, and later only seemed to have a stomach bug when, in fact, he was “dry drowning” — a result of the fluid in his lungs. Dry drowning can be treated and doesn’t have to be fatal if you know the signs to look out for.

In the face of a tragedy like this, it helps to learn anything you can about how to have a safe summer, particularly if you’re going to be near and in the water. About 10 people die every day in the U.S. from drowning, making it the 5th leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. Many of these drownings are due to the lack of “water competency” — meaning some swimmers simply do not have the swimming skills they may think they have.

In an American Red Cross survey, 86 percent of respondents said they knew how to swim, yet only about half (56 percent) could actually perform basic core swimming skills necessary for “water competency.” It’s also noteworthy that many people don’t realize signs that someone is drowning. As mentioned in the Fox News report, dry drowning is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, extreme fatigue and irritability — which can be mistaken for a “stomach bug.”

Other safety tips when swimming include not going into pools that appear cloudy or have film on them, as these may be infected with deadly bacteria such as cryptosporidium. This is especially important, as in a survey, close to 80 percent of public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had at least one safety or hygiene violation that could have posed health problems for those using the pools.

That’s why experts recommend swimmers use common sense before jumping in to public pools, including gauging the cloudiness of the water. If you can’t see the drain, don’t jump in.
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