Child Drowning, Secondary Drowning & Dry Drowning: Signs to Look For & What to Do by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

5 min read

Written by Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri

A passionate Child Health Advocate, Paediatric Emergency and ICU consultant, Child Safety Expert, Author, and Teambuilder – Dr. Chetan Ginigeri wears different hats according to the role necessit More

pool safety water

It has been seen that kids are fond of water, be it splashing in their bathtubs or simply playing with it, so they can also be called aquatic babies. Initially the depth of water is less as they are confined to small baby pools which are at home and do not carry much water or they play with running water, but it has been seen that with the advent of summers, parents take the kids to pools with them to beat the scorching heat and to even play and spend time in togetherness. The water level in the pool is not too much but is not even too little, so it is advisable never to leave the kid all alone and be there to keep a watch over them. It is difficult for them to drown but not impossible, so fair chances are there, so, as parents or guardians, we need to be cautious and alert while the child is inside the pool.
Since child drowning is becoming a commonplace feature, we shall be studying secondary and dry drowning and its indicators as well as the cure to it.

Signs Of Drowning

Drowning is a situation where one gets helpless and starts moving the body as they are unable to come out of it and even breathe as well. Drowning is a silent as well as a fast process, in which there is a lack of oxygen, so it has been seen that a drowning person cannot call but moves his hands and legs to come up with the water surface, which is not noticed, can lead to drowning. Since it is not so evident, we need to start looking out for signs, especially with the child and they are as below:

  • If the head is at a low level in the water
  • If the mouth is at or beneath the water level.
  • Eyes are opened wide or closed tightly
  • They have an open mouth, and the head is tilted at the back
  • The hair is all over the eyes or the forehead
  • There is no movement of the leg
  • Trying but unable to swim further
  • Having breathing issues
  • The child is almost beneath the water level
  • Trying to roll back

The onset of the above signs indicates that the child should be taken out at once.

What Should I Do If My Child Almost Drowns?

Drowning is a silent process, so if one notices the signs as above, they need to take immediate action. Sometimes, water enters the mouth, and that gives a feeling of being drowned, but that can be taken out after which the child feels fine. In case one feels that the child has almost drowned they can take the steps as below:

  • Act Fast: Get the child out from water at once, in case he is unconscious call emergency. In case the child is awake but scared and stammering, it is not a sign of danger.
  • Rush To Office: In case the child is coughing badly or too tired, then we need to rush to the hospital’s emergency section as it could indicate a different form of drowning.
  • Administer CPR: In case the child is not showing any response once taken out, and it is doubtful if he’s breathing, you need to go near his mouth and even nose to be able to find out if there is air, the chest is pumping or not. If there are no signs, then administer infant CPR if the baby is one year old, if the child is between 1-8 years, then child CPR must be administered. Simultaneously inform the emergency department to reach soon.

What Are Secondary and Dry Drowning?

Drowning is the process where the child gets helpless and is unable to come out from the water easily. Drowning is also of two types: Secondary and dry, both are not very common, but still, one needs to be cautious else it can be lethal. Let us now understand what these two terms are and how they differ?

  1. Secondary drowning: In this type of drowning, a little amount of water enters the lungs of the child, it can lead to burning and uneasiness, and even hampers the breathing process. This can even result in cardiac arrest or sudden death. This can happen instantly or even after two to three days of the water entering the lungs.
  2. Dry drowning: This type of drowning can happen in a jiffy. In this case, the water can enter the nostrils or the mouth leading to the contraction of the air passage, causing them to close. It is very uncomforting, yet there might be no visual signs, the child might not be toiling with this type of drowning.

What Are The Signs Of Dry And Secondary Drowning And What Steps To Take If The Child Undergoes A Near -Drowning Experience?

Drowning can happen to the child if proper supervision is not done. It could be secondary or dry. Since the child is in water, the water can reach the lungs leading to cough or breathlessness, so it is best to be cautious and watch for the below-

  • A consistent complaint of cough
  • Too exhausted
  • Breathing issues
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Irritation
  • Mood disorders
  • Unable to talk
  • Confusion and forgetfulness
  • Becoming pale
  • Problems with bowel syndrome and bladder issues

Pool And Swimming Safety Tips To Follow

Being in the pool is a great time for parents and children. It is a great physical activity, refreshes all, and helps to bond well. No doubt, kids love water, but as adults or guardians, we should be on the look-out and protect the child from drowning. For that, we need to follow the regulations at the pool that are made for safety purposes, which can even help in prevention from drowning. Some of the safety points and pool rules are as follows:

  • In case of a pool, always keep yourself safe by a self- lock, or a latching gate that has a height of 4 feet, take away any furniture by which the child can climb and get in the pool.
  • Keep the children at a shorter distance from where you are so that you can easily catch them if required
  • Learn to administer CPR if required
  • Keep the phone handy to make any urgent calls.
  • Use a toddler cozy jacket or vest to save him from drowning.
  • Never rely on floatation devices for security if you are not around.

Thus, one needs to keep in mind that even if the child has learned the art of swimming, he still would not know how to handle a situation when he is about to drown. So, it is best to be near him so that you can save him from drowning. It is imperative to take adequate measures so that the swimming session is fun, safe, and a pleasant one for all.

Dr. Chetan Ginigeri,MBBS(JIPMER), MD (PGIMER), Fellowship PICU (Kings College London)
Head of Dept – Paediatric & Neonatal services, Aster CMI Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Chetan Ginigeri is an experienced Pediatric Intensivist with national and international training. With 15 years of experience, he is one among very few Intensivists in India trained to take care of children who need/had organ transplants. He has been responsible for coordinating the Pediatric Organ Transplant program.Read more.

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