Drowning out of the water
Secondary drowning can happen up to 24 hours after child leaves water
HOUSTON, Texas – We often think of summer as the season for drowning, but drowning can happen anytime of the year. In fact, every day about 10 people unintentionally drown. One in five that die are under age 14. And you don't have to be in a pool or body of water to drown. Secondary drowning, also called "delayed" drowning, can happen up to 24 hours after you or your child has left the water.
Greg Howard, father of Rowan Howard, says it only took an instant.
"It's the worst feeling you could ever imagine," said Greg.
Rowan's mother, Terra Howard, recalls her middle son's cries.
"I opened the front door and was screaming that Rowan drowned," she said.
The 7-year-old was rushed to the hospital. His heart stopped several times along the way.
"I kept asking people if he was alive and they wouldn't answer me," said Terra.
Rowan's organs were shutting down and he was given a 1% chance of living.
"I mean he was so swollen, he was unrecognizable," said Terra.
But rowan survived.
"The parents a lot of times say, oh we were there, we were supervising the children, we just turned our head for a minute," explained Kim Cheung, MD, pediatrician at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
But she says kids don't always drown in the pool. Instead they can drown on land up to 24 hours later
"Usually you have some fluid in the lungs, but not enough to cause you to asphyxiate at that time," said Cheung.
Known as secondary drowning, Cheung says parents should seek medical attention for these symptoms: fatigue, trouble breathing, coughing, and kids not acting like themselves.
Cheung saod, "So don't just write it off as, oh, he's been in the pool all day."
Rowan had to learn how to walk, talk and eat again. Now more than two years later, his spirits are high.
Rowan suffered a traumatic brain injury during his near drowning and doesn't remember anything about the accident. His mom says he's like a different person, with a whole new set of likes and dislikes. While the CDC doesn't keep records distinguishing a wet drowning from a secondary drowning, experts believe an estimated one to two percent of all drownings are secondary.
Drowning can affect anyone and from 2005 to 2009 there was an average of 3,533 people who died unintentionally from drowning each year. These also were non-boating related accidents, which are an additional 347 people. About 80% of people who die from drowning are males and children ages one through four have the highest drowning rates. Factors for drowning vary and include lack of swimming ability, lack of close supervision, lack of barriers around pools or water, location, failure to wear a life jacket, alcohol use and seizure disorders.
Many people are unaware of secondary or dry drowning. Drowning is possible even after you are out of the water. Secondary drowning is when fluid builds up in the lungs. This is called pulmonary edema, and usually occurs after a near-drowning accident. The fluid buildup is what makes it difficult to breathe. Dry drowning is similar but it is when small amounts of water are swallowed and it triggers the muscles in their airways to spasm and this causes difficulty breathing. Dry drowning and secondary drowning is rare and make up only about one to two percent of all drowning incidents. Symptoms of these types of drowning accidents can occur one to 24 hours after the incident. The symptoms can appear as trouble breathing, chest pain or a cough. Also, the person's behavior could change suddenly and they could experience extreme fatigue. These signs are a good warning, but they can be very difficult to spot especially in children who are normally like this after an active day. If you are able to spot any of these warning signs, it is important to get to the emergency room as soon as possible. Time is very crucial when it comes to drowning. Once at the hospital, dry or secondary drowning can be treated with ventilation or oxygen.
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