With the warmer weather, countless families will spend this weekend at the pool, enjoying a local river or going to the beach. While most parents can immediately recognize the signs of a child being in trouble in the water, it seems there is something they may be missing. In some cases, a child can inhale water and seem fine in the minutes and even hours after it happens. This can occur in a quick moment of a wave knocking them over or going underwater too fast. In the case of a family in Texas, a quick tumble caused by an incoming wave left their little boy dead a week later.
According to a news report about the incident:
“Frankie Delgado was playing in knee-deep water during a Memorial Day weekend trip to Texas City Dike when a wave from a distant ship knocked him over and his head went under, said his father, Francisco Delgado Jr. A family friend picked him up, and Frankie said he was OK.
“He had fun the rest of the day,” Delgado said. “I never thought nothing of it.”
The next night, Frankie began to vomit and have diarrhea. Delgado and his wife had taken the boy to the doctor for similar symptoms before and were told it was a stomach bug, so they decided to treat him at home. Doctors now suspect these symptoms were the result of the water he had inhaled the day before.”
Normally when we talk about drowning, visions of a violent struggle in the water pop into your head. In the case of four-year-old Frankie, doctors called this type of accident a “dry drowning.” It is the bodies reaction to taking in too much water, and it can be hard to spot in children because it does not happen right away.
While the cause of death has not been made official, doctors said that the child’s small body was overwhelmed by the water he inhaled. The water surrounded his organs and made it impossible for them to get enough oxygen to the rest of his body to keep him alive.
This type of submersion injury is rare and often only happens in very young children. Frankie was much older than the average child suffering from this injury, but it does occur in preschool-aged kids as well. Parents need to be aware that a child falling into the water or even getting hit by a wave may feel the effects of inhaling water after everything seems fine.
One of the biggest mistakes many parents make is if there is a small event or an accident they assume once the child is out of immediate danger they are fine. For example, a child that falls into the deep end of a family pool may seem to be safe after a nearby adult pulls them out. In any submersion accident, the child should be seen by a doctor.
Something as simple as falling under a wave at the beach can push enough water into the lungs to cause damage over the hours following the fall. According to a recent report about dry drowning, parents should watch for the following symptoms:
“Coughing. Persistent coughing or coughing associated with increased work of breathing needs to be evaluated.
Increased “work of breathing.” Rapid shallow breathing, nostril flaring, or where you can see between the child’s ribs or the gap above their collarbone when they breathe, means they’re working harder to breathe than normal. This is a sign that you should seek medical help immediately.
Sleepiness. Your kid was just excitedly playing in the pool, and now she’s fatigued? It could mean not enough oxygen is getting into to her blood. Don’t put her to bed until her doctor gives you the go-ahead.
Forgetfulness or change in behavior. Similarly, a dip in oxygen level could cause your child to feel sick or woozy.
Throwing up. Vomiting is a sign of stress from the body as a result of the inflammation and sometimes a lack of oxygen, also from persistent coughing and gagging.”
In a suspected case of dry drowning, the child should be seen by a doctor in the Emergency Room. The presence of water in the body can be seen on an x-ray and treatment can support the child getting enough oxygen while the body flushes out the water. The danger comes into play if this is left untreated because the body can not get high enough oxygen levels to keep working. Oxygen support in the hospital can turn this lack of oxygen around.