Dry drowning in toddlers can be defined as a condition developed as a result of water entering into the lungs of the toddlers. This may suffocate the baby causing death due to lack of oxygen in the lungs. It can happen immediately after the water has entered the lungs or after 24 hours. In some cases, if the damage caused by dry drowning is not properly treated, then symptoms can show up once again after several days and may lead to death as well. Usually, the water gets into the lungs of the toddlers while in the swimming pool or even in a bathtub. You may be surprised to know that water from the bathtub can cause dry drowning in infants or toddlers. Therefore, you should be alert while giving bath to your tiny tot. Toddlers do not have well-developed lungs, and hence are more susceptible to dry drowning. The condition worsens if the toddler has some lung problems or any other breathing problem, or has been diagnosed with pneumonia or asthma in the past.
Why is Dry Drowning Fatal?
Normally, during breathing, our diaphragm gets contracted and the lungs located above it undergo expansion. This helps in drawing air inside the lungs by creating a vacuum or negative pressure in it. Before entering into the lungs, the air passes through larynx. When water is inhaled instead of air, then involuntary contraction of muscles of laryngeal cords takes place and the larynx is shut. This spasm condition continues hardly for 30 seconds. During this time, the inhalation process is partially blocked, but the exhalation goes on normally. In such condition, there is no supply of air to the vacuum created by the diaphragm. As the vacuum remains, the person tries to breathe harder in order to fill air into those vacuums. On the other hand, the vacuums also exert additional pressure in the chest. As a result, the inflow of oxygen is obstructed and the condition is known as hypoxia. The outflow of carbon dioxide is blocked too. Thus, there is an inadequate supply of oxygen in the body which causes death.
Parents can identify that their toddler is suffering from dry drowning or not, only if they have proper knowledge of the symptoms. Following are most commonly observed symptoms in toddlers:
Whenever toddlers swallow water unintentionally, they start coughing as if to throw up the water. If this coughing lasts for a longer time than usual, say up to half an hour, it is possible that the ingested water has reached the lungs. Parents should watch out if any other associated symptoms shows up along with this. One other thing to be noted is that they also cry a lot and rub their eyes frequently if water has been ingested.
Difficulty in Breathing
When toddlers are in the pool or in bathtub, it is natural that they will breathe in a slightly abrupt manner. Once they are out of water, their breathing should normalize within a few minutes. If that does not happen, then it could be possible that water has entered into their lungs.
Chest pain is not at all common among toddlers. So, if your tot is complaining of pain in the chest, then it is a warning signal that something is seriously wrong. This happens because of the pressure created on the chest by the vacuum within the lungs.
Fatigue and Exhaustion
Usually, toddlers are a bundle of energy. If you find that all of a sudden your tiny tot is showing lack of energy after playing during bath, then it could be the sign of dry drowning. This symptom is often ignored by parents because they feel that their child is just tired after long hours of play.
Change in Behavior
When toddlers feel any discomfort, it gets reflected in their mood and behavior. You may also find that your toddler may appear confused and is unable to follow your verbal instructions or is getting overly agitated. The problem with toddlers is that they cannot easily express their thoughts and feelings. As a result, emotional changes can be observed in them.
There could be other symptoms accompanied by those mentioned above. Choking or gagging is a symptom of this condition, and if it lasts for more than two minutes, then it is a sign of danger. Sweaty skin or change in color of skin are some other symptoms which may be observed. A blue tinge on the lips or a pale-bluish color on face is a crucial symptom. This is an indication of lack of oxygen in the blood. In some cases, toddlers lose their consciousness.
If you find any of the aforementioned symptoms in toddlers, then take your baby to the emergency room in your area, without any delay. Toddlers can be saved if treatment is done on time. Treatment is not possible at home. It involves removal of water from the lungs and resuming the supply of oxygen in the lungs. The early the symptoms are observed, the better it is for the child. Any kind of delay can have serious repercussions on the life of the toddler.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.