I've never heard of this before... Please read and consider when taking
your children swimming.
Death highlights a hidden danger: Dry drowning
10-year-old died more than an hour after getting out of swimming pool
The tragic death of a South Carolina 10-year-old more
than an hour after he had gone swimming has focused a spotlight on the
little-known phenomenon called "dry drowning" — and warning signs that
every parent should be aware of.
I've never known a child could walk around, talk, speak
and their lungs be filled with water, Cassandra Jackson told NBC News in a
story broadcast Thursday on TODAY.
On Sunday, Jackson had taken her son, Johnny, to a pool
near their home in Goose Creek, S.C. It was the first time he'd ever gone
swimming — and, tragically, it would be his last.
At some point during his swim, Johnny got some water in
his lungs. He didn't show any immediate signs of respiratory distress, but
the boy had an accident in the pool and soiled himself. Still, Johnny, his
sister and their mother walked home together.
We physically walked home. He walked with me, Jackson
said, still trying to understand how her son could have died. I
bathed him, and he told me that he was sleepy.
Later, she went into his room to check on him, walked over to the bed, and
his face was literally covered with this spongy white material, she said.
"And I screamed."
A family friend, Christine Meekins, was visiting and went to see what was
wrong, pulled his arm and said, "Johnny! Johnny!," Meekins told NBC.
"There was no response. I opened one of his eyes and I just knew inside my
heart that it was something really bad."
Johnny was rushed to a local hospital, but it was too
late. Johnny had drowned, long after he got out of the swimming pool.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 3,600
people drowned in 2005, the most recent year for which there are
statistics. Some 10 to 15 percent of those deaths was classified as
"drowning," which can occur up to 24 hours after a small amount of
water gets into the lungs. In children, that can happen during a bath.
Dr. Daniel Rauch, a pediatrician from New York
University Langone Medical Center, told TODAY's Meredith Vieira that there
are warning signs that every parent should be aware of. Johnny Jackson
exhibited some of them, but unless a parent knows what to look for, they
are easily overlooked or misinterpreted.
The three important signs, he said, are difficulty
breathing, extreme tiredness and changes in behavior. All are the result
of reduced oxygen flow to the brain.
Johnny had two of those signs — he was very tired when
he got home, and he had had the accident in the pool. But like most
parents, Cassandra Jackson had no idea this could be related to water in
Rauch said that the phenomenon of dry drowning is not
completely understood. But medical researchers say that in some people, a
small amount of inhaled water can have a delayed-reaction effect.
"It can take a while for the process to occur and to set
in and cause difficulties," Rauch said. "Because it is a lung
process, difficulty breathing is the first sign that you would be worried
The second sign is extreme fatigue, which isn't always
easy to spot. "It is very difficult to tell when your child is abnormally
tired versus normal tired after a hot day and running around in the pool,"
Rauch said. "The job of the lungs is to get oxygen into the blood and your
brain needs oxygen to keep working, so when your brain isn't getting
oxygen, it can start doing funny things. One of them is becoming
excessively tired, losing consciousness and the inability to be aroused
Finally, there are changes in behavior, Rauch said —
another tough call when dealing with very small children, whose moods and
behavior can change from one minute to the next.
"Another response of the brain to not getting oxygen is
to do different things," Rauch explained, saying parents should be
concerned "If your child's abnormally cranky, abnormally combative — any
dramatic change from their normal pattern."
He admitted, "It is very difficult to pick this up
sometimes." But spotting the warning signs and getting a suspected victim
to an emergency room can save a life, he added.
Victims of dry drowning are treated by having a
breathing tube inserted so that oxygen can be supplied under pressure to
the lungs. "Then we just wait for the lung to heal itself," he said.
But for Cassandra Jackson, it's knowledge gained too
late. She and Meekins sat in her home, looking at pictures of the bright
and happy son who was no more.
"He was very loving, full of life," the grieving mother
said. "That was my little man."