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Misconceptions of 'dry drowning'

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children but there are also misconceptions about when exactly parents should be worried.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Summer fun at the pool can turn into summer danger if a child starts to drown.

“It’s definitely a scary experience but there’s a lot of adrenaline with it, so once you go in you’re just going right after the kid," said Ellie Bailey, a lifeguard at Lincolnway Pool in West Manchester Township, York County.

Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children under the age of 14, according to the CDC.

It’s something lifeguards at Lincolnway Pool are trained to handle.

“We are told to especially look for bobbing, when kids are bobbing up and down, when they’re smaller usually and they’re not near a parent, or they look frightened to get in the water," explained Bailey.

But doctors say there are misconceptions about parents’ real concerns.

While the possibility of actually drowning is something everyone should be aware of, the term “dry drowning” is misleading.

"It then got sensationalized over the internet to turn into a term that if your child goes underwater and might choke on some water that they might get water in their lungs and that they could ‘drown’ at any moment several days later," said Dr. Christopher McCarty, a family physician at WellSpan Terre Hill.

Experts say this doesn’t really happen, and in many cases, children who develop symptoms, or even die, days after being in water are usually suffering from an unrelated problem.

Doctors worry the idea distracts from what’s really important—water safety and prevention.

“We don’t want to worry too much about our kids doing a cannonball and getting a little bit of water in their mouth and having to cough a couple times when they come up," explained Dr. McCarty. "What we really want to worry about is major drowning events.”

In most cases, experts say signs of drowning will likely appear in a child that was submerged in water in the first couple of hours after the incident.

“If your child is way more lethargic, they’re feeling really tired, if they’re throwing up, complaining of headaches, complaining about problems breathing," said Dr. McCarty

Dr. McCarty says it’s always important to know CPR, use life jackets or floatation devices, and have constant adult supervision while near bodies of water or pools.

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