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Boy dies of 'secondary drowning' while napping after swim

Posted June 5, 2008

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— The death of a South Carolina boy is being blamed on a phenomenon called secondary drowning – lung damage that is caused by ingesting water but that is not fatal right away.

The 10-year-old swallowed water while swimming at a pool in Goose Creek, S.C., over the weekend.

He complained that he couldn't breathe and was tired after getting out of the pool. The boy drowned while taking a nap in his bed, authorities said.

His death, the result of secondary drowning, was caused by a biological change in the lungs after a near-drowning experience.

“There is a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (secondary drowning) where there can be inflammation of the lungs when you ingest a lot of water,” WRAL's Dr. Allen Mask said.

Mask said there are signs of secondary drowning for which you can watch: difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue and a change in behavior.

If someone inhales a significant amount of water or is pulled out of the water coughing, that person should probably go to the emergency room to be checked out, Mask said. If left untreated, secondary drowning syndrome could be fatal.

Raleigh father Tim Scranton said that after learning about secondary drowning he will keep a closer eye on his son after swimming.

“Leaving the pool, if I see him having those kind of symptoms, I would take it a lot more seriously than before,” Scranton said.

Secondary drowning can occur as late as 72 hours after someone initially ingests the water.

37 Comments

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  • Travised Jun 6, 6:27 p.m.

    The other phrase you will hear used is "dry drowning". The throat will constrict as it does to prevent water from going into the lungs. Usually it relaxes when the threat is gone, however as happened here it can occur afterwards rarely. Try to think of it as the bodies automatic reflex in protecting us (if we are shoved underwater) it kicks in so we don't inhale water.

  • Tarheel born Jun 6, 4:05 p.m.

    I have been around water, boats, etc and teach CPR to middle schoolers (8th grade-required). I have NEVER heard of this condition. Oh, I believe it. I'm just shocked that there isn't more info and/or being publicized before now. I'm so sorry for the parents. I hope their tragedy rises up to a miracle for someone else.

  • Adelinthe Jun 6, 2:20 p.m.

    OMG!!! Why hasn't this been publized well before? I mean, the media does so much to get us every little bit of news about Angelina Jolie, so why not this fatal syndrome that any one of us could face in our life any day?

    Praying for this poor boy's family. They must feel so guilty, and yet how could they have known?

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • garden Jun 6, 1:51 p.m.

    Wow, never heard of such a thing. My heart goes out to the family.

  • Mom of two Jun 6, 1:12 p.m.

    I have never heard of this either. That is scary. I had my 1 yr old in swimming lessons last year and she coughed all the time from swallowing water when we had to put thier head under alittle. Prayers for the family.

  • SomeRandomGuy Jun 6, 12:14 p.m.

    I have heard of this, and I thought it WAS taught to lifeguards during their training. I also believe that you have to have a near drowning event at a place like a pool for this to occur.

  • ECU_chick Jun 6, 11:42 a.m.

    http://www.sutcliffe.ca/joel/nls/drowning.pdf

  • misschris234 Jun 6, 10:35 a.m.

    ARDS isn't only secondary drowning. They should have just used secondary drowning, as that is what it was.

    There is plenty of info out there on this, including:

    http://users.ox.ac.uk/~oulsc/theory/drown.html

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1714551

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drowning#Secondary_drowning

    http://www.firstaidtopics.com/secondary-drowning/

  • Yelena Jun 6, 10:21 a.m.

    I've never even heard of this. It's incredibly scary, but I'm sure it's rare. Still, it's something to keep in the back of your head.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Jun 6, 10:05 a.m.

    The ERs ar going to be busy this summer. My child got out of the pool coughing yesterday, I might have reacted differently if I had read this first.

    Very sorry for the family's loss.

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