Schools out and summer fun is on the way. Unfortunately, this is also the time when submersion injuries (drowning) can occur. These can go by other names, such as near-drowning, wet and dry drowning or delayed drowning.
What does this mean exactly?
To make things easier to think about, all submersion injuries should be thought of as essentially the same thing. Its when water gets into the lungs instead of air, says Sara Kirby, MD, pediatric emergency medicine, at AdventHealth for Children.
Not all symptoms always appear right away. There are cases of secondary drowning, or delayed drowning, referring to when there's a response to the inhaled water within the next 24 hours.
Regardless, concern should arise anytime a child is submerged underwater for a period of time. Especially if there's any distress at the time (for instance, struggling or needing to be rescued), she says. Many times, children can't cry for help. They can be gasping for air, appear to bob up and down or slip under quietly.
After a submersion event, be on the lookout for any of the following symptoms:
persistent coughing or vomiting
any period of time where they were unconscious, or have trouble remembering the event
having a harder time breathing
changes in their behavior (sleepy, confused)
Any of these circumstances should prompt parents or the caregiver to have a healthcare provider evaluate their child, whether by talking with their pediatrician first, or be seen as soon as possible at an urgent care or ER, preferably one that commonly sees children, she adds. Never be afraid to call 911 if you're not sure what to do.
Prevention is key
Drownings don't just happen at the pool or the beach. They can even happen in the bathtub. The most important thing to prevent any of these episodes is close monitoring whenever children are in water, even if it is just a few inches, she says.
Swim lessons are equally important, especially when children are young, so they're comfortable and skilled at moving around in the water if they fall in unexpectedly. There are many bodies of water in Florida, so talk with your children about water safety and what to do if one of their friends is in trouble.