What is secondary drowning and how to prevent it
Secondary drowning occurs when fluid in the lungs causes a drop in the blood oxygen level and can occur within one hour or up to 72 hours after contact with the water, symptoms will not necessarily will reveal themselves while in or around the water, including here in Southern California. Victims of near drowning may not feel the effects of secondary drowning until it is too late. While uncommon, both children and adults can be affected by this difficult to recognize phenomenon but by watching for certain red flags, secondary drowning can be prevented. Coastal Kids Pediatrics offers a few concepts that may help you to pay attention for the signs.
Pulmonary edema is defined as fluid that has built up in the lungs which can cause breathing to be difficult because the lungs cannot produce enough oxygen for the blood. Additionally, defined: the pores of the lungs are filled with fluid rather than being able to produce the necessary oxygen for the blood. This influx of fluid can cause the heart to slow down, not rapidly, but gradually to the point of possibly stopping. The reason secondary drowning is not a well-known problem is because the symptoms can be so gradual, an association with a near-drowning incident may not be made until too late.
It is important to remember secondary drowning symptoms can occur up to a few days after the inhalation of water. Water in the lungs can occur at swimming pools or even in the bathtub with very little water being necessary to cause secondary drowning. Symptoms explained by oxygen deprivation can include change in color of skin to grey or blue, agitation, lethargy, or other changes in energy levels. Other symptoms include a shortness of breath, sweating, coughing, wheezing, gasping for air, chest pain, fever, and sudden change in personality, or an altered mental state.
Prevention includes teaching children and parents about basic water safety, providing swimming lessons, and knowing the symptoms of secondary drowning from your pediatric specialist. Additionally, fences around pools and life jackets are staples of safe swimming. Lastly, supervision when children are in or around water is the foremost important preventative measure to keep children safe.
While most children may show signs of being tired after a day at the pool, a child who has suffered a near-drowning incident should be closely monitored for 72 hours. Symptoms may not only be delayed, but also very gradual in their appearance. Parents should trust their instincts if he or she suspects any of the aforementioned symptoms by contacting 911, heading to the local emergency room or calling Coastal Kids Pediatrics in southern California.
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