Dry drowning is a condition in which the lungs of an individual could not extract oxygen from the air due to various reasons including intake of water, paralysis of the muscles, breathing in gas other than oxygen for an extended period or even a puncture wound on the torso. In cases of dry drowning where the individual was exposed to water, little water is present in the lungs during an autopsy.
It is important to be familiar with the basic safety measures when engaged in water activities in order to prevent dry drowning. If you want to learn basic safety and first aid while engaged in water activities, click here.
How it happens
Always bear in mind that dry drowning can occur due to the spasm of the larynx which is caused by an involuntary contraction of the laryngeal cords. These cords contract once they detect the entry of water or other types of liquid, which results to the temporary blockage of oxygen from entering the lungs. Understandably, even a near drowning incident can lead to dry drowning and death since the laryngeal cords contract when even a minimal amount of water threatens to enter the lungs.
Once the larynx closes itself, the entrance of oxygen into the lungs is impeded. Nevertheless, the heart continues to pump blood into the lungs and some of the blood enters the airspace. As a result, the individual can drown in his/her own fluids or dies from hypoxia.
Is it possible to prevent dry drowning?
The initial step in order to prevent dry drowning is to watch out for the signs and symptoms that might manifest. Some of the indicative symptoms of dry drowning include persistent coughing, ingestion of small amounts of water while swimming or engaging in water activities, shortness of breath, shallow breathing, confusion, chest pain, anxiety, sudden lack of energy and unexplained fatigue.
In case any of these signs and symptoms persists after swimming or any water activity, it is important to seek medical care. Additionally, always bear in mind that the symptoms of the condition will not disappear over time. Obviously, it will ultimately lead to death and the best way to treat the condition is to take the individual to the emergency department at the nearest hospital so that the healthcare professionals will remove the water from the lungs and provide appropriate treatment measures.
Apparently, prevention is always the best way to avoid the condition. With this in mind, it is important to observe safety measures when close to water or in the water. When engaged in swimming or other water activities, it is vital to keep both the nose and mouth closed while underwater to prevent entry. You can even use nose plugs since it can help minimize the risk.