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What Are the Signs of Secondary Drowning?

What Are the Signs of Secondary Drowning?

Summer is here, which means that more and more families are heading to the water. Drowning and near-drowning accidents will be on the rise, which is why it’s critical to understand how to avoid tragedy at the pool, spa, or beach. Even a few seconds is enough for devastating consequences to occur. A relatively unknown—but dangerous—situation can occur after a near-drowning event, known as secondary drowning. If you or a loved one has experienced a near-drowning accident, it’s critical to watch for the signs of secondary drowning.

What is Secondary Drowning?

It’s a rare, but life-threatening, occurrence that happens after water has entered the lungs. Even if the victim inhaled only a small amount of water, it is possible for this frightening event to occur. It is also called “parking lot downing” or a “delayed drowning.”

Secondary drowning occurs when water is aspirated and enters the lungs. When there is water in the lungs, the alveoli, or air sacs, in the lungs fill with water and cannot exchange oxygen and other gasses with the bloodstream. This leads to a drop in the victims’ oxygen levels and edema, which is a swelling of the lungs. If untreated, the victim will suffer from a pulmonary edema, hypoxia/anoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain or body), and respiratory and cardiac arrest.

There is also a chance of developing chemical pneumonitis, or inflammation of the lungs due to the harsh chemicals used to treat pool water. This can also cause a lack of oxygen absorption and difficulty breathing.

This frightening complication may occur anywhere between 1 and 24 hours after the initial near-drowning accident. While it is very rare, it is critical to monitor those who have inhaled water to ensure that their breathing functions remain normal and there are no signs of distress.

The Signs of Secondary Drowning

If secondary drowning occurs, the signs will be quite clear. If you know or suspect that the victim has inhaled water during a near-drowning experience, monitor them for the following signs:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Tightness in the chest or chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Lethargy or changes in energy level

If you notice these signs, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. The early stages of a secondary drowning are the easiest to treat, and allowing the symptoms to progress can lead to serious harm, injury, or even death. Many parents and swimmers ignore the signs of secondary drowning because they attribute the symptoms to fatigue from physical activity, irritation due to the water, or other harmless issues. If you notice these signs, play it safe and seek medical care immediately.

Secondary drownings can be treated with the administration of oxygen to raise the victim’s oxygen levels, as well as diuretics and positive pressure to remove liquid from the lungs.

Preventing Secondary Drowning

The best way to prevent secondary drowning is to prevent near-drowning accidents. This means that you should always practice water safety, including:

  • Never diving into shallow or crowded water
  • Swimming an areas patrolled by lifeguards
  • Teaching your children to swim as early as possible
  • Protecting your pool with a fence and self-latching gates
  • Supervising children closely while swimming or playing near any amount of water
  • Discouraging roughhousing and other dangerous play in and around water

If you or a loved one has been injured in a near-drowning accident, don’t hesitate to learn how our Brooklyn personal injury attorneys can help. We can discuss your case and determine what legal options are available to you. At Belushin Law Firm, P.C., we put your rights and needs first. Let us help your family through this difficult time.

Contact our firm at (888) 918-9890 to schedule a free case evaluation.


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