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The family of a four-year-old boy who died nearly a week after going swimming is warning parents about a rare condition called “dry drowning”.

According to family, the child had shown symptoms of a stomach bug, including vomiting and diarrhea for several days after returning home from a family trip. They didn’t think much of it as the child seemed to be improving. By the following weekend, the little boy complained of shoulder pain. Hours later, he woke up with breathing difficulties and died a short time later in the hospital.

“Out of nowhere, he just woke up. He said ahhh,” the child’s father said. “He took his last breath and I didn’t know what to do no more.”

Paramedics and doctors tried saving the child, but it was too late. Doctors found fluid in his lungs and around his heart. They told the family he died of “dry drowning.”

Dry drowning occurs after a person inhales water through the nose or mouth and the water gets into the lungs. The lungs can then become irritated from the water and fill with fluid resulting in respiratory problems, brain damage, or even death.

The condition is most common in children because of their small size. Even if a child ingests only a “few gasps” of water, he or she could be at risk. Dry drowning can happen in a pool, in the ocean, and even in a bathtub.

While dry drowning incidents are rare, parents need to be aware of the symptoms that may begin between one and forty-eight hours after someone inhales water while swimming, or even after a bath.

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fatigue / sleepiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings

Health experts say if you notice any of these symptoms, sit your child upright so they can breathe easier and take them to the emergency room. When it is caught in time, dry drowning can be treated.

What can you do to help prevent drownings?

  • Supervise your child when near open water, even if a lifeguard is on duty.
  • Keep in mind that drowning happens quickly and usually silently, without a lot of splashing.
  • Install safety gates and pool alarms.
  • Enroll your child in swim lessons at a young age. Drowning is responsible for more deaths in children age 4 and younger than any other cause, except congenital anomalies, according to the CDC.

Swimming is fun summer fun. Don’t let it turn into a nightmare. Dry drowning is something every parent needs to know about, so please share this information for the safety of all swimmers this summer.

Mark Bello has practiced law for 40 years. He is currently the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company, and the author of the legal thriller “Betrayal of Faith” available on major online book store sites.

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