Doctors want to set the record straight on ‘dry drowning'

You’ve probably seen articles about “dry drowning” in your Facebook feeds, but the local medical community wants to set the record straight.

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You can find hundreds of articles online about “dry drowning,” especially after an incident last month where doctors say a 4-year-old in Texas died.

WSB-TV met Dr. Andrea Keyes, an emergency physician with Northside Hospital Cherokee, who said there’s a misconception about "dry drowning."

“The appropriate term is drowning,” Keyes said.

Keyes told Lucie concerns about children showing no symptoms at first and dying days after swimming have little to do with drowning.

“More commonly, it is going to be something more common -- a viral illness, or some sort of bronchitis, something along those lines,” she explained. 

According to doctors, “dry drowning” is not even an accepted medical term. 

Doctors say always remember the important things when you’re at the pool:

  • Never take your eye off your child.
  • For the young ones, always stay close to them and if your child does have some sort of episode after going under, parents will know if they need to go to the ER. 

“If they’re having significant difficulty with breathing, confusion, color changes or obvious signs of distress,” Keyes said. 

But the thousands of stories on Facebook and Google about “dry drowning” have spread misinformation and confusion in the community. 

“Have you ever heard of dry drowning? I have. Do you know what it is? It is when a child has gone swimming and gets too much water in the lungs,” insists Kenia Bernard, a mother Lucie spoke with at the Garden Hills. 

Like many parents, the “dry drowning” articles have made her concerned, but Keyes says the symptoms she’s described are just known as drowning. 

“When water enters the airway, there is difficulty with breathing, the airway then swells, and this causes a lack of oxygen to the rest of the body, which then can cause increased fluid in the lungs and around the heart, cause seizures, and then cause death,” she explained. 

WSB-TV asked Keyes to clarify a secondary cause. 

“More commonly, it is going to be something more common -- a viral illness, or some sort of bronchitis, something along those lines,” she said. 

File photo of a swimming pool.

The bottom line is always keep an eye on your kids around bodies of water and make sure they’re wearing appropriate lifesaving devices.

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