Symptoms of dry drowning every parent should know

A week after a 4-year-boy passed away days after swimming on a family vacation, a family from Texas is warning others about the dangers of dry drowning. Frankie's tragic story went viral -- and luckily, another parent heeded the lesson and noticed the often-overlooked symptoms in his own toddler.

Dry drowning is something every single parent needs to know about -- especially in the summer months, as more children go into the water to evade the heat. While dry drowning can affect adults, it's "more common" in children because of the small size of their bodies, said WebMD.

According to, dry drowning accounts for only about "2 percent of drowning incidents" -- but symptoms can emerge after the child leaves the water. In Frankie's case, some doctors suspect the little boy died from secondary drowning. says that while "dry" and "secondary" are often used interchangeably, each may bring different symptoms.

Unlike wet drowning -- which happens when "submerged" underwater, filling the lungs with water -- water never reaches the lungs during dry drowning. "Instead, breathing in water causes your child's vocal cords to spasm and close up after he's already left the pool, ocean, or lake," according to WebMd. Since the airways are closed off, breathing is compromised. Symptoms occur soon after the child leaves the water.

See the symptoms of dry drowning below:

Symptoms of dry drowning
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Symptoms of dry drowning


"Persistent coughing or coughing associated with increased work of breathing" should be brought to the attention of a medical personnel -- if not immediately -- said

Shallow breathing and trouble breathing

The child will be gasping or coughing for air. He or she may feel like they can't catch their breath

Nausea and/or vomiting 

Vomiting can sometimes be triggered by persistent coughing. It's also a "sign of stress from the body as a result of the inflammation and sometimes a lack of oxygen," said pediatrician Kathleen Berchelmann to

Confusion and exhaustion 

An enhanced state of confusion or exhaustion may be a result of the brain's lack of oxygen. 

Don't just put your child down for a nap -- be wary of these symptoms. 

Chest pain

Chest pain could be associated with extreme coughing or vomiting. 


Alternatively, secondary drowning is when water reaches and builds up in the lungs, causing pulmonary edema and making it difficult to breathe. Signs of secondary drowning are evident later, within one to 24 hours after the child leaves the water.

"When they first get out of the water, they may cough and then will normally be okay. As the day goes on, breathing gets a bit faster and just progresses. They will be working harder to breathe, with the belly moving in and out or the ribs showing the strain," said Dr. Ray Pitetti, an associate medical director of emergency pediatric medicine, to the Daily Mail.

However, each is equally dangerous, making it all the more important for parents to look out for these symptoms even after an incident occurs. If a parent notices these aforementioned signs, they should either call their pediatrician or 911.

How can you prevent dry and secondary drowning? Keep an eye on the kids, install fences around the pool and schedule swimming lessons. Plus, CPR is a life-saving skill to have -- and educate other parents on dry drowning dangers.

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