NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Every summer dozens, of children end up in the emergency room hours after splashing or swimming around in the water.


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As CBS2’s Maurice DuBois reported, sports medicine specialist Dr. Lewis Maharam says it’s a condition known as “dry drowning.” It takes just a few teaspoons of water to go down the wrong way and into the lungs.

And it happens all the time to children playing around in the pool or lake. They accidentally inhale water. They cough, then seem fine. But sometimes, they are not OK.

“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.

He says the lungs are irritated and start to secrete fluid — and children can actually drown in their body’s own fluid.

CBS2 spoke to parents at a Long Island pool, who were shocked to learn of the condition and especially that it can happen as many 24 hours after leaving the water.

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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.

Hazen says not only are most cases treatable, they’re also preventable.

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

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Research shows not all children are susceptible to “dry drowning.” And while it can also happen in adults — it’s rare.