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Celebrating a Hero and Looking at the Little-Known Danger of Secondary Drowning

Just last week, we wrote about a family that almost lost their little girl to drowning in a hotel swimming pool. This week, another pool-related scare is making headlines in the Florida Panhandle region. We are relieved both children survived, but the proximity is a reminder that swimming pools can turn from fun to deadly in a flash.

In today's post, we'll look at the phenomenon known as secondary drowning. This danger can occur in the aftermath of events like the aforementioned where an individual nearly drowns. It is a rare event, and we're glad it didn't strike either of the recently rescued children, but it is a threat everyone should know about since timely intervention can save a life.

Visitor Helps Save Child from Drowning

On Friday night, as WJHG reports, a visitor from Louisiana saw her title change from "tourist" to "hero." According to the 25 year-old woman, she spotted a group of children running around in the pool area at Destin's Sandpiper Cover. Seconds later, she noticed that one of the youngsters was carrying an unresponsive child. The woman performed CPR on the child, a 5 year-old who also calls Louisiana home, until he started to cough and his pulse returned.

Deputies from Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office say that the child's parents had left him in the care of a family member. Although he'd been told to stay out of the pool, the boy jumped in to join the other children. Emergency responders took the boy to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center to be checked out. As of the time of the article, the boy was alert, responsive, and expected to make a complete recovery.

Understanding Secondary Drowning

Drowning is, of course, a major concern, but it is far from the only risk. One issue that has gotten extra attention this summer is secondary drowning. While rare, this very real threat could be one reason the child in the recent Destin scare was taken to the hospital despite having been revived. In June, CNN discussed the danger known alternatively as "near drowning," "secondary drowning," or "parking lot drowning."

Secondary drowning can occur 1 to 24 hours after leaving the pool. It begins with the swimmer inhaling water, perhaps during a near-drowning or when there is a rush of water such as after the swimmer jumps from a high diving board or enters the pool from a slide. Explaining this initial event, ICU physician DR. Sarah Hahn notes "It happens in seconds because it's just a matter of getting water past the vocal chords before the body's had time to react."

While the swimmer generally appears fine in the immediate aftermath of the event, water remaining in the lungs starts to cause swelling, known as edema. Eventually, the lungs fill and they can't do their job of oxygenating the blood, causing the blood oxygen level to drop and the heart to slow. Symptoms include a persistent cough, lethargy, unusual mood changes, and shortness of breath. If it proceeds untreated, the swimmer can develop serious complications and die. However, if caught early, doctors can treat secondary drowning by supplying oxygen and removing fluid.

Prevention and Representation

Secondary drowning is very rare. However, we want everyone to be aware of the risk because knowledge and timely intervention can save lives. In a future post, we plan to look at issues of swimming pool safety and potential swimming pool injuries that do not involve drowning.

As always, we believe the best accident is one that doesn't happen. Prevention comes first, but when someone else's negligence leads to a swimming pool injury or fatality, we believe in representation and helping those affected recover critically needed monetary compensation. Call if our Northwest Florida swimming pool accident lawyer can help you.

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