Know the Signs of Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning

The thought that your child could drown on dry land can be terrifying, but it is preventable.  It's important to know and be able to recognize the sounds of dry drowning, or secondary drowning to keep your family safe in and out of the water.

"Baby diving" by MasterFinally

What is it?

Dry drowning is when a small amount of water enters through the nose or mouth, and it causes a spasm in the airway, causing it to close up and making it difficult to breathe. Dry drowning usually happens soon after exiting the water.

Secondary drowning is when the water gets into the lungs and causes inflammation or swelling that makes it difficult or impossible to breathe. Secondary drowning can happen up to 24 hours later. 

Both can cause trouble breathing and, in worst-case scenarios, death.  Dry drowning and secondary drowning account for only 1-2% of all drowning incidents.  It can happen to adults, but is more common in children and babies.

What are the symptoms?

Both dry drowning and secondary drowning have the same symptoms including:
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability or changes in behavior due to lack of oxygen to the brain
What to Do

If you expect your child may be experiencing symptoms of dry drowning or secondary drowning, seek medical help immediately. 


Most cases are mild and only require observation.  Some cases may need to be admitted to the hospital where they will be given supportive care while monitored over night.  There is no medication for dry or secondary drowning.


The most important thing parents can do is prevent dry drowning and secondary drowning.   

Always supervise children closely around water, including bathtubs.  

Enroll yourself and your children in water safety and swimming classes, some begin as early as 6 months of age.  

Keep pools and other water sources gated off.

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About Coffee and Wine Mom

Maddi Casey is a muscle car driving, hard working mama who is obsessed with football and good beer. She has two beautiful baby girls and loving husband. Writing is a passion, hobby and sometimes career of hers at She is also passionate about animals, nature and entrepreneurship.
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