Dry drowning occurs when a child dies hours after being in the water. It is a very rare occurrence. It can be know as secondary drowning.
In dry drowning, someone takes in a small amount of water through his or her nose and/or mouth, and it causes a spasm in the airway, causing it to close up. In secondary drowning, the little bit of water gets into the lungs and causes inflammation or swelling that makes it difficult or impossible for the body to transfer oxygen to carbon dioxide and vice versa.
Dry drowning usually happens soon after exiting the water, but with secondary drowning, there can be a delay of up to 24 hours before the person shows signs of distress. Both can cause trouble breathing and, in worst-case scenarios, death.
Secondary drowning happens a little bit differently. Your child’s airways open up, letting water into his lungs, where it builds up, causing a condition called pulmonary edema. The result is the same: trouble breathing.
To recognize dry drowning, pay close attention to your child. If they start to have trouble breathing or you do not understand what is going on, seek medical attention right away.