LifestyleDebunking "secondary drowning" myths

Debunking "secondary drowning" myths

Lifeguards keep a watchful eye on children and adults while they enjoy the cool water at Mayfair Community swimming pool on a summer day, July 1, 1997 in Lakewood, California. (Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)
Lifeguards keep a watchful eye on children and adults while they enjoy the cool water at Mayfair Community swimming pool on a summer day, July 1, 1997 in Lakewood, California. (Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Bob Riha Jr

10:03 AM EDT, July 10, 2024

A child drowns, and the parents rush to rescue. After performing resuscitation and restoring vital functions, the family, as if nothing had happened, goes back home, where the child "drowns in their sleep."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drownings should not be classified as "primary" or "secondary." If a child is not breathing, it is necessary to call an ambulance and perform resuscitation. Even if vital functions are restored, a doctor should consult the child. It is emphasized that you cannot take the child home after resuscitation.

Debunking the "secondary drowning" myth

From articles on the Internet, one might infer that the child might appear to be fine and suddenly die within 3 days. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine emphasizes that such a case has never been described in medical literature.

Regarding medical facts, searching for the appropriate term in PubMed rather than another popular search engine is better. It is stated there that "terms such as ‘dry’ and ‘secondary’ drownings are no longer in use." These terms were last used in 1980 and 1986.

"All the doctors quoted in the article talk about pulmonary edema following drowning, which occurred in resuscitated individuals. They speak of deaths in hospitals. No one drowns 'in their own bed,'" commented a paramedic.

After a severe submersion episode, specific, real complications must be addressed. If they occur, symptoms are visible within the first day after the incident. However, there is nothing like a "secondary drowning." However, there is something like a pulmonary edema.

How to recognize pulmonary edema?

Any child who shows unusual symptoms after submersion, such as coughing, drowsiness, or weakness, should be immediately consulted by a doctor.

Pulmonary edema can occur much faster than suggested, even within 4-8 hours. It is noted that avoiding contact with water is not an adequate protection method for children. Instead, it is recommended to learn to swim and have constant supervision during bathing because the lack of swimming skills and adult supervision usually leads to drownings, not playtime in the water.

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