Every year tens of thousands of people die by dry drowning. People should be aware of causes, symptoms of dry drowning to seek medical attention because it’s incredibly tragic, but not particularly unusual. The case of ten-year-old Johnny, on the other hand, is strange, because he drowned in his bed at night.

What Is Dry Drowning? A Silent Death!   Only Fun Facts
Tragic death can be the result of dry drowning (Photo: Onlyfunfacts.com)

What is dry drowning?

Dry drowning once referred to instances in which a person died more than 24 hours after swallowing or inhaling liquid but showed no signs of breathing trouble.

Most medical authorities and organizations now discourage the use of the term.

At present, the medical community has not agreed on a term to replace dry drowning. Some groups use “post-immersion syndrome” or, less commonly, “delayed drowning.”

Today, researchers and doctors occasionally use dry drowning to describe cases in which liquid stimulates the voice box, causing the organ to spasm and shut.

When the voice box spasms, the vocal folds close, and breathing becomes difficult. Liquids may end up in places they should not go, such as the sinuses, and it may be difficult to get air into the lungs.

The Causes of Dry Drowning

This form of drowning is particularly dangerous, as it is not immediately noticeable and can occur long after leaving the water. If a child swallows water, it is usually no big deal – nonetheless, there is still a great danger. Because the child can still die up to 24 hours after the swimming incident.

The water that enters the lungs can cause severe respiratory problems such as inflammation or edema, which in turn can lead to gas exchange problems. With every passing hour, the oxygen deficiency increases, finally resulting in the child’s death. In a five-year-old child with a body weight of approximately 19 kilograms, 37 milliliters of water can be sufficient to cause such reactions.

How can this be detected? Symptoms include frequent coughing, even after swallowing the water, apathy, accelerated breathing and discoloration of the lips. If this is observed after a swimming incident, the child should be taken to an emergency room immediately.

A particularly insidious aspect: dry drowning can also occur if no water is swallowed at all. In general, this only occurs in pre-school children if their face comes into contact with a lot of cold water. This leads to a so-called immersion reflex, which can trigger a laryngospasm and cause a lack of oxygen. If it does not recede, the child may choke to death, stated MedicalNewsToday.

Treatment of dry drowning

If a person seems to lack oxygen or may have drowned, anyone trained should immediately begin CPR and get someone else to call for emergency help.

Once the person arrives at the emergency room, they will often undergo medical tests to determine how well they are breathing. Doctors will also check their vital signs, such as their heart rate, body temperature, and oxygen levels.

If the vital signs are all normal, healthcare professionals will usually monitor the person for around 4–6 hours, then allow them to leave the emergency department. If not, they will admit the person to the hospital for longer-term monitoring and care.


There are ways to help prevent drowning. Most involve practicing water safety.

Some key tips include:

  • directly supervising children under the age of 4 in any amount of water
  • swimming only in supervised areas with a lifeguard on duty
  • following lifeguards’ safety warnings
  • swimming, with supervision, in designated areas of lakes or beaches
  • keeping infants, toddlers, and young children away from any stagnant water
  • supervising infants, toddlers, and young children when they are drinking
  • wearing life jackets when doing water sports
  • taking swimming lessons and teaching children to swim from a young age
  • fencing off private pools
  • keeping pool gates closed when the pool is not in use
  • learning CPR and water safety if frequently supervising others while swimming
  • never swimming alone
  • never swimming or going near the water when drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs
  • removing ladders to inflatable pools when the pool is not in use
  • always supervising children using inflatable toys or loungers
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