Following the tragic death of 4-year-old preschooler Frankie Delgado III, from Harris County, Texas, due to dry drowning, six days after he returned with his family from a trip to have fun swimming in the Texas City Dike, doctors have come out with a list of symptoms of dry drowning that every parent should know. The list of symptoms is intended to help prevent another, similar tragic death from happening.
Fox 40 reported that doctors told the Delgados their son had died from something they had never heard of before, “dry drowning.” Frankie’s parents had thought their son “had a simple stomach bug,” but the doctors said that he must have inhaled water while he went swimming with his family in the Texas levee.
Frankie’s mother, Tara Delgado, said he son’s lungs were full of fluid. She stated that the doctors told her there was not anything else they could do to save his life.
Many people, like Frankie’s parents, have not heard of “dry drowning.” It is not a very common way that children die, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls drowning “the second leading cause of death” of children.
KSBY San Luis Obispo News reported that the CDC states at its website that every year, over 3,800 Americans die from drowning. Dry drowning accounts for approximately “1 to 2 percent of those cases.”
Dry drowning can occur anywhere there is enough water and a child has his or her head submerged in it long enough to inhale a sufficient quantity to cause death. Dry drowning can even happen from inhaling too much water in a bathtub.
Some of the symptoms of dry drowning, according to Chairman of Family Medicine at the MetroHealth System Dr. Christine Alexander, include “struggling to breath” and/or “coughing.” Parents need to recognize and know what the symptoms of dry drowning are, because once the symptoms show up, getting medical treatment in time is important in whether a child lives or dies.
Dr. Alexander said that, for a case of dry drowning to occur, a child has to first have his or her head go under water, and then swallow enough water to have it get “in the back of their throat.” The doctor stated that dry drowning starts off “in the voice box area” of a child. She said that the child’s voice box spasms or vibrates, and that is what causes breathing problems.
Two other symptoms of dry drowning are ones Frankie Delgado III experienced, vomiting and diarrhea. He did not exhibit any symptoms at all, until days after he returned home with his parents from the swimming trip.
Three other symptoms of dry drowning are irritability, extreme fatigue and chest pain. Dr. Alexander mentioned that if a child exhibits any of these symptoms of dry drowning, parents should take the child to either urgent care or an emergency room where doctors can assess if the symptoms are caused by dry drowning, or if they are perhaps ones caused by a virus.
Dr. Alexander said that by just being treated “with simple oxygen and other treatments,” victims of dry drowning often recover fairly quickly. Without such medical treatment, though, Dr. Alexander warned that victims of dry drowning “most certainly could die.”
According to Dr. De Schutter, after a child exhibits initial symptoms like shallow breathing and frequent coughing, the skin of the child can also change colors, “to pale grey, blue.” He said that oxygen levels go down in the child until he/she has difficulty performing even simple tasks.
WCNC reported that the Emergency Department Director at Dell Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Eric Higginbotham, stated that children should be watched by their parents not only while they are in the water swimming, but also after they get out of it. He said that symptoms of dry drowning can take six hours or longer to develop.
The doctor said it is “best to err on the side of caution.” Dr. Alexander stated a parent should trust his or her instincts and if a child is not acting in a normal way after swimming or taking a bath, and is exhibiting any of the symptoms of dry drowning, the child’s parents should take him/her to get medical care. The doctor also suggested that parents should have their children take swimming lessons because the more at ease they are in the water, the less likely it will be that they will accidentally inhale or swallow water.
Dr. Higginbotham said that other than ensuring that children get swimming lessons, some measures that parents can take to help prevent dry drowning is to not drink alcohol or talk on the phone while watching their children swim. Also, he recommended that parents make sure their children are fitted with the right size of life jacket, remove toys from around a pool after their use “to avoid a child going in after them,” and make sure that when not in use, pools get blocked off.
Every parent should know the symptoms of dry drowning, and should take their child to either urgent care or the emergency room if he/she is experiencing any of the symptoms, in order to help prevent the child from possibly dying. The symptoms of dry drowning usually take six hours or longer to appear after a child has inhaled or swallowed water, so parents need to be paying attention to any possible symptoms of dry drowning sometimes hours and even days after their child has been in water.
By John Samuels