Dry drowning: Family shares daughter’s scary experience

U.S. & World

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita family is sharing their experience with dry drowning to raise awareness about a silent killer they say, they never knew about.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for kids in the United States, but it doesn’t just happen inside the water.

“It’s very scary knowing that she could’ve died from that,” said Anika Smith, mother.

The Smith family went on vacation in 2017 to Florida. They visited a Disney Resort and spent the day at the water park.

When they left, they put their daughter, Addison who was a little more than a year old at the time, in her car seat for the car ride.

“When she woke up from her nap, we noticed that she had this really odd sounding cough and choke sort of happening at the same time,” said Matthew Smith, father.

What the Smiths didn’t know is that Addison was drowning, even outside of the water and even hours after being close to water.

It’s called dry drowning and like many people, the Smiths had never heard of it.

“It’s a secondary effect that can happen when water does get into your lungs and starts causing damage that may not be apparent for a couple of hours,” said Dr. Amy Seery, a pediatrician at Ascension Via Christi.

Doctors said the symptoms include a continuing or new cough, trouble breathing, your child acting inappropriately sleepy, forgetfulness, a change of behavior or throwing up.

Addison showed many of these symptoms.

“It’s that crucial four to six-hour window after the event that parents need to be vigilant,” said Dr. Seery.

Before heading to the emergency room, Addison’s dad tried one more thing.

“I just put her over my leg, face down with her head a little lower,” said Matthew. “I gave her some back thrusts and she coughed up a bunch of water.”

After an incorrect diagnosis of croup, an upper airway infection, the family turned to their doctor back in Wichita.

The Smiths later found out that Addison did suffer from dry drowning.

Their ball of energy is now okay, but they want other parents to be aware.

“I’m thankful she was in the car seat sitting upright,” said Anika. “I think it would be a completely different story if she was laying down in the crib.’

Doctors said if your child shows any of the symptoms of dry drowning, take them to the hospital immediately. If such symptoms don’t begin until about 6 hours after the water event or later, it is unlikely that they are suffering from dry drowning.

Doctors also said that adults can experience this type of drowning, as well. The medical terms used for it include near-fatal drowning or submersion injury. Another common term is secondary drowning.

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