Every year as summer approaches, we hear terrifying stories of all the dangers our kids could face in the hot months of June, July, and August. We absolutely need to heed warnings like never leaving our kids in the car, ensuring they stay hydrated, and using sunscreen. With our kids spending hours per day in the pool or swimming at the beach, another common topic is swimming safety. And in recent years, it’s not only drowning in the water that we are told to fear; now we parents are on the lookout for signs of “dry drowning” as well. Is this really something that can happen to our children? Is it likely? How can we keep our kids safe? Well a blogger who writes at Dr. Kate’s Info Blog says “dry drowning” is not actually “dry” and that the media has caused a misconception that may be confusing parents.

The writer alludes to stories that have flooded our news feeds about this terrifying event occurring after kids swim. For example, just two weeks ago, a 4-year-old boy in Texas passed away days after swimming, and sources say “dry drowning” was the cause. The same saga seems to repeat itself: kids swim, apparently swallow a bunch of water, seem fine, and tragically die a few days later. At least, that’s what click-bait headlines have us believe, says Doctor Kate, and that information is not accurate.

In her post “Dry Drowning (Which is Not a Thing)“, she hopes to educate her readers about what really happens and how to prevent this tragedy. First, she explains the difference between swallowed water and aspirated water. Swallowed water goes down the esophagus, and if a child drinks too much chlorine, he may become stomach sick, but it’s not fatal. What proves fatal is when kids aspirate, which means “the water goes into the trachea and down into the lungs,” according to Dr. Kate. Another major difference between swallowing and aspirating is that a child may cough, as he would if he took a sip of orange juice that was too big, when swallowing water. Aspiration will cause “an episode of distress. You will see it and you will KNOW they are not OK. They will take longer to recover than they would after choking on a little orange juice at the dinner table. They will cough and gasp and sputter. They may even require intervention like CPR.”

Dr. Kate does not want families to stop swimming with their kids for fear of dry drowning. She says it’s important to know the true signs and how to respond. “If your child has an episode like [aspiration] and then later continues to have coughing, vomiting, wheezing, chest or belly pain, or seems abnormally tired, we have a problem. Get to the ED. If your child goes swimming and does not have an aspiration event and afterwards they are perfectly fine . . . they are perfectly fine.” 

With that said, Dr. Kate says parents should not take swimming lightly. “The key to preventing drowning? Supervision,” she says. “There needs to be a designated child watcher. Just because there are ten adults present doesn’t mean one of them is paying attention to the kids. Have a plan. If it’s a party where you don’t really know anyone, this is not the time to make new friends. Watch your kids. If your child is participating in swimming activities when they are not with you, be the annoying parent. Ask questions about who will be supervising. Ask if anyone present has had lifeguard training. If you don’t like the answers you get, don’t send your kid. Hosting a pool party yourself this summer? Consider hiring a lifeguard.”

Dr. Kate admits that she does not have a pool at her house, and that is an intentional decision, as she worries about her kids’ safety. However, she also says, “But I don’t want the kids of the world never going near the water again because their parents were frightened by a poorly researched Facebook article.” Know the facts. Watch your kids. According to this writer, it’s as simple as that. 

Karen Johnson

Karen Johnson is a freelance writer who is known on social media as The 21st Century SAHM. She is an assistant editor at Sammiches and Psych Meds, staff writer and social media manager for Scary Mommy, and is the author of I Brushed My Hair Today, A Mom Journal for Mostly Together Moms. Follow Karen on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/21stcenturysahm/, Twitter https://twitter.com/21stcenturysahm , and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/the21stcenturysahm/