NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Dry drowning. It sounds like an oxymoron. How can you drown when you’re not in the water?
But as the weather heats up, parents should be aware of the frightening hazard for young children.
There is actually “dry drowning” and “secondary drowning.” Both are very rare and are the result of taking a little bit of water into the throat or lungs.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez, the Delgado family is grieving the loss of their 4-year-old son, Frankie.
“He was full of life,” said his mother, Tara Delgado.
Almost a week after a family trip, his father called 911 because Frankie stopped breathing. Doctors told them they found fluid in his lungs and around his heart.
“And it was called ‘dry drowning,'” Tara Delgado said.
Experts actually call Frankie’s case “secondary drowning,” which happens if a child takes a little water into the lungs, causing inflammation and swelling.
“The lungs are irritated and start to secrete fluid,” explained Dr. Lewis Maharam, a sports medicine specialist. “And they can actually drown in their body’s own fluid.”
Secondary drowning usually develops within 24 hours, but sometimes much longer, as with Frankie.
Kids may experience lethargy, irritability or have trouble breathing.
Dry drowning happens sooner. It’s when a child takes in a small amount of water through his nose or mouth and it causes a spasm in the throat or airway.
“They’re trying to breathe against those closed vocal cords,” said Dr. Thomas Waters of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Emergency Medicine.
While both types of cases are very rare, it’s critical for parents to keep an eye out for symptoms and respond quickly.
“If you have any concern whatsoever, the best thing to do is err on the side of the caution and take that loved one to the emergency department,” Waters said.
Experts add that drowning in general can happen in any kind of water, from the ocean to the pool to the bathtub. So caution is necessary, especially with young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children ages 1 to 4 are at greatest risk.