Kids can drown hours after leaving the pool, experts say

Jun 24, 2015 8:14 PM by CBS News, Photo: WCBS

NEW YORK -- When the weather gets hot kids and their parents flock to the water, beating the heat by splashing around in oceans, lakes and pools.

The last place parents want to be flocking to during the summer is the emergency room, yet every year dozens of children end up there for drowning. This particular drowning doesn't occur while swimming though. It happens hours after the child has left the water, CBS affiliate WCBS reports.

Sports medicine specialist Dr. Lewis Maharam explains to WCBS it is a condition known as "dry drowning" and it is landing a lot of kids in the hospital hours after swimming in the pool. He said it takes just a few teaspoons of water to go down the wrong way and into the lungs that causes this condition.

"Dry drowning" happens when children playing around in the pool or lake accidentally inhale water. They may cough, but then they seem fine. But, sometimes, they are not fine.

"They had a normal day and then they go to bed and they're coughing or they're wheezing or their parents see bubbling from the mouth," Dr. Maharam explained.

Dr. Maharam said the lungs are irritated and start to secrete fluid -- and as a result children can actually drown in their body's own fluid.

WCBS spoke to parents at a Long Island pool and asked what they knew about the condition. One parent said she was shocked, and especially shocked it can occur nearly a day after leaving the water.

"This is why it's so important to get the word out," Dr. Maharam said.

The symptoms can include lethargy, irritability and trouble breathing.

Jim Hazen with the swim school Safe-T-Swim advises caregivers to go straight to the emergency room, not the pediatrician, after noticing a problem after their child has been in the water.

Hazen says most cases are treatable and preventable.

"The prevention is obviously adult supervision, number one, learn to swim, number two," Hazen said.

WCBS reports that research shows not all children are susceptible to "dry drowning." And while it can also happen in adults -- it's rare.


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