What is 'dry drowning?'

BTN11: What is dry drowning? - KARE

MINNEAPOLIS - A recent story of a young boy in Texas dying nearly a week after swimming got your attention. It got ours too.

It's incredibly sad this family must now lay to rest their 4-year-old boy. There were signs something was wrong, but the boy's parents weren't certain what it ultimately was until it was too late.

KARE 11's Cory Hepola talked with Andy Olson, an ER Doctor at Park Nicollet's Methodist Hospital about "dry" or "secondary" drowning and what you should be looking for as your family heads to the pool or lake this summer.

"Dry drowning - first of all - is really, really rare. But, I think classically, it'll be a child who is under water for a little while, they come up and cough and gag for a little bit, but then seem fine. And, then, what can happen is several hours later they might start to have some trouble breathing," Dr. Olson said.

How exactly does that happen, medically speaking?

"Really what you're talking about is that reflex to close off the airway. It's called the epiglottis; it flips close, it's what keeps you from drowning every time you try to drink a glass of water. So, that's really the issue. Is that closes, your lungs try to expand and there's nothing to expand against. And, that's traumatic to the lungs," Dr. Olson said.

Can this happen if someone goes under for just a second or does it only happen during a near death experience?

"Well, I mean, all it takes is that moment where they're trying to breathe really strongly against a closed off airway. And, even when this happens, in most cases, the children turn out to be fine. They might have a little bit of fluid building up and then it'll all resolve," Dr. Olson said.

Would there be any symptoms connected with this?

"Well, right away, maybe not. But, within four, five, six hours you would expect to see some trouble breathing, maybe a little coughing, wheezing is possible, too," Dr. Olson said.

What do you do if that happens? Is there any treatment?

"So, there's no antibiotics or anything you give. In a lot of cases - you know - if kids are having some of the symptoms they'll be admitted to the hospital and monitored," Dr. Olson said.

He continues, "When in doubt we're always open, we're always happy to take a look. Sometimes we decide - well, let's get a chest x-ray, sometimes you know we're just able to listen to the lungs, look at the child, check their vital signs and say, 'Hey, this child is fine.'"

© 2017 KARE-TV


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