Toddler's 'Secondary Drowning' Scare​ Is an Important Lesson in Summer Safety

poolLindsay Kujawa, the mother behind the blog Delighted Momma, recently shared a truly terrifying story on her site. Lindsay told the story of how an otherwise normal day at the pool with her child, Ronin, turned horrifying when suddenly, after turning her back for five seconds, he was sucked under water. As Lindsay tells it, Ronin was "whirled by the jets to the other end of the spa where his little head was bobbing up and down trying desperately to get air." Lindsay quickly pulled her son out of the pool, and save for him seeming more tired than usual, everything was fine.

However, later on in the evening, something wasn't sitting well with Lindsay. Ronin seemed more lethargic than usual, and he had a strange cough that made him tense up. Feeling in her gut that something wasn't right, Lindsay phoned her pediatrician and was immediately instructed to go to the emergency room. It sounded like Ronin was experiencing secondary drowning.


Thankfully, everything is fine with Ronin, but not after any shortage of drama. He was rushed to a pediatric specialist at a hospital in San Diego, where Lindsay was informed that her son had water trapped in his lungs and had chemical pneumonitis due to the chemicals from the spa getting trapped in his lungs. Although scary, this was much better than the alternative, which could have been death.

Now. What happened? Ronin was on the brink of experiencing secondary drowning, which is something that should never be taken lightly. Secondary drowning differs from primary drowning (when a person dies due to the inhalation of water and inability to breathe) in that the person dies because of an injury to the lung caused by a small amount of water getting into the lung. Onset of such an injury can occur between 1 and 48 hours after an incident.

What parents need to know about secondary drowning:

As Lindsay writes in her blog, "If your child has experienced a near drowning experience (it can happen in as little water as a puddle or in the bathtub), watch for a sudden change of personality or energy level. You can save your child's life if you act quickly and get them medical treatment immediately." Any time a child aspirates water, even if it's as little as four ounces, it's enough to cause a decline in lung function, which, yes, can potentially result in death. Secondary drowning is rare, but it does happen. Experts warn parents to watch for the following signs, should their children inhale water:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Extreme or unusual tiredness.
  • Unusual behavior, especially slurred speech or other signs that the brain may not be functioning normally.

If parents do notice any of these signs, they should bring their child to the ER immediately or call 911. And although it may seem obvious: Never, ever leave children, especially young ones, alone in a pool or a bathtub.

So glad Ronin is okay, and thank goodness Lindsay followed her gut instinct and called the doctor. Hopefully, this scary experience didn't happen in vain and it will save a child's life who otherwise may have succumbed to secondary drowning.

Did you know about secondary drowning?


Image via Nathan Bittinger/Flickr

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