What Is Dry Drowning? Texas Toddler Dies From Secondary Drowning A Week After Incident

A Texas toddler died a week after experiencing an incident at the beach, and doctors believe that a rare condition known as secondary drowning may be to blame, CNN reported. Parents of Frankie Delgado, 4, hope that raising awareness about their son’s tragic death can help prevent the same thing from happening to others in the future.

In the case of secondary drowning, water enters the lungs, but not enough to cause drowning right away. Instead, over time, this water will begin to cause swelling in the lungs, a condition known as a pulmonary edema. This causes trouble breathing and eventually, if left untreated, can cause death.

Read: What Drowning Feels Like: Asphyxiation In Water Is Silent But Deadly

Secondary drowning does have characteristic symptoms and can be treated. Symptoms usually occur within one to 24 hours after the initial water incidence, WebMD reported. These include coughing, chest pain, trouble breathing, and feeling extremely tired. In addition, an individual may have a change in personality and energy levels as a result of the brain not getting enough oxygen. Although in most cases these symptoms may go away by themselves, in very rare instances they can be fatal.

sand castle Secondary drowning can occur many hours, even weeks, after the initial water submersion. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

According to Frankie’s parents, the child experienced vomiting and diarrhea following his incident, but were told that these symptoms were due to a stomach bug. A week later, his father noticed that the young child did not seem to be breathing, CNN reported.

"I love my son so much. I'm always touching him, and I'm always talking to him when he's sleeping, and all of a sudden he just woke up," Francisco Delgado Jr, the child’s father said, CNN reported. "He looked at me, and he just rolled his eyes back and took a deep breath. I was like 'Frankie, what's wrong,' and I got up real quick, and I saw that he took a breath but never exhaled."

Frankie was rushed to the hospital where doctors found water in his lungs and around his heart. Although the official cause of death is still pending, secondary drowning is considered to be the likely cause based on the symptoms.

The term “dry drowning” is also used interchangeably to describe another slightly different condition. According to WebMD, in some cases, after an initial water submersion experience, water may not reach the individual's lungs and instead gets trapped in the vocal cords. This causes the vocal cords to spasm and close up, making it very difficult for them to breath. This condition differs from secondary drowning in that symptoms show nearly immediately after the incident, where secondary drowning may take more time to show symptoms.

However, according to Dr. Mark R. Zonfrillo, attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in an interview with Parents, both conditions are equally dangerous. Both are also extremely rare and only make up about 1-2 percent of all drownings each year.

See Also:

10 Life-Saving Facts Everyone Should Know, From Surviving A Shark Attack To Preventing Drowning

Black Children At Higher Risk Of Drowning; Learning To Swim For Survival Is Essential

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