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Spotting the Dangers of Secondary Drowning

TABLE ROCK, Mo. -- Safety is always on minds of parents headed to the lake this time of year; but there are drowning signs parents should watch out for long after their children leave the water.

TABLE ROCK, Mo. -- Safety is always on minds of parents headed to the lake this time of year; but there are drowning signs parents should watch out for long after their children leave the water.

"Secondary drowning" or "dry drowning" is something Ashlee Tennis had heard of, as a professional in the medical field. She and her family spent the afternoon taking in the sun at Moonshine Beach on Table Rock Lake.

"Usually we go to the creek by our house," says Tennis, "It's] a little shallower. The kids are getting a little bit bigger now, so it's a little easier to take them somewhere like this."

Tennis says while she and her husband always keep and eye on their three children when they're around water, they both know the dangers of secondary drowning.

"That can happen in a pool, not just here on the beach," says Tennis.

White Water Director of Operations, Cory Roebuck says it can even happen while giving children a bath. He says in most cases secondary drowning follows a near drowning situation.

"First it can be when somebody actually gets water in the larynx, or their vocal cords, [it] causes them to spasm or swell up and then you can't breath air into your lungs. That's typically an immediate reaction," says Roebuck.

"Another could be when somebody actually aspirates, or breaths in water into their lungs," say the Director of Operations, "It causes a response where your lungs actually absorb a liquid into your lungs."

The small amount of water can act as an irritant in the lugs, causing the body to fill the lungs up with fluid, in turn, lowering oxygen levels.

Roebuck says that why White Water has a paramedic check out anyone pulled out of the water by lifeguards. He says following that the parents or guardians are given a list of symptoms to watch out for like shortness of breath, swelling around the throat, even a change in behavior.

"Keep in mind this could happen hours after the event," says Roebuck, "You may see it in kids because there's more kids in the water, however it could happen to anybody."

Roebuck says while secondary drowning doesn't occur often, it’s worth keeping and eye out for.

"When they scrape their knee, you don' t just leave it alone you have to doctor it up to make sure it's not infected later on," says Tennis, "I think this is the same thing."

Roebuck says if water doesn't go into or past your vocal cords it’s similar to taking a drink of water.

Roebuck says if parents notice these potential secondary drowning symptoms to contact medical help:
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, not breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Persistent cough, wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Raspy voice
  • Persistent or worsening nausea and vomiting
  • Change in Behavior, Confusion, Disorientation
  • Vomiting, Diarrhea
  • Undue lack of energy or tiredness
  • Anxious appearance

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