Parents Should Watch For Signs Of Secondary Drowning

By  | 

LINCOLN, Neb. When I was twelve years old, I was woken up in the middle of the night by my father. He told me that we were going to the hospital because my brother wasn't acting right - he was vomiting, looked unconscious and he was having problems breathing.

Earlier that day, my baby brother, eight at the time, had been playing in the pool, doing gymnastics. He did seem to struggle in the water for a few seconds, but came back up quickly and coughed the water up.

Both my parents and I truly believed he hadn't taken that much water in. But we were wrong.

Later that night, after making it to the hospital, the doctor told us that he had taken in too much water in his lungs and that was why he began having problems breathing.

It's rare - but secondary drowning is possible. Once your child is swimming in the pool, they can take in too much water and even after they do, they don't start to feel the effects of that for hours.

Dr. Jason Kruger, is an ER physician at Saint Elizabeth's. He explains that secondary drowning happens when, "a child inhales water into their lungs and that causes inflammation in their lungs."

And hours later that water in their lungs is what causes severe breathing problems. "The warning sings would include having trouble breathing or wheezing. The child may appear blue or may be vomiting. They are agitated or acting differently," said Dr. Kruger.

At Lincoln Public Pools, they document any swimming incidents so parents know to keep a close eye on their child - and look for those signs later on if there was previously distress in the water.

Holly Lewis, the Aquatics Director says,"If we enter the water to provide assistance to a swimmer, we document that...we record who the victim was, who did the rescuing at the pool, etc. It is something that we document and give when we release the person to a parent or guardian."

Lincoln Public Pools say they make 65-85 rescues in a summer.

"Majority of them are simple assists...parents still need to be wary after they find out their child had an incident," Lewis said.

And while these rescues typically have happy endings, if you think you're child is acting strangely after a day at the pool, the best thing to do?

Go to the emergency department to get your child checked out.

My family saw those signs and decided to act quickly, which ultimately saved my eight-year-old brother's life and gave us the happy ending that every family should have after a fun day at the pool.