Research Paper Example on Dry Drowning

8 pages
1940 words
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Dry drowning is a condition in which an individual takes in water through the mouth or nose, causing the airwave to spasm and close up. The situation often occurs immediately after leaving the water after swimming in which case, the individual experiences difficulty in breathing, exhaustion, chest pain, and coughing. With the airwaves shut out, little or no oxygen reaches the brain and the victim experiences low body energy resulting to irritability, sickly, and woozy. The main sign of dry drowning includes change in behavior and forgetfulness, throwing up, persistent coughing, tired feeling, and labored breathing. Dry drowning may lead to death if not attended to or detected early. Although the situation is rare, it contributes significantly to drowning incidents. Although the above signs on dry drowning may disappear after some time, it is important to seek medical attention in case the symptoms persist. The central purpose of this essay is to undertake research into dry drowning, impact on health care and public perception of the issue.


In a recent publication by Fox News (2017), a young four-year-old boy died of dry drowning a week after the family spent a vacation where swimming was involved. The young boy, Frankie, and his family took a trip to the Texas City Dike during the Memorial Day Weekend in Texas City. The boy's father, Delgado, argues that his son complained of abdominal upset a few days following the swimming trip, but the relatives brushed off Frankie's complains believing that it was a minor concern. However, Frankies condition worsened after a week whereby he died on Saturday morning, a week after the Texas City trip. The family called for help from the local health department, but it was too late to save the boy (Fox News, 2017).

The major issue that the Fox News article represents is the alarming cases of dry drowning. Also, the article indicates that many families are not familiar with cases of dry drowning and its severity. In regards to primary and community health care, The Fox News article reports that dry drowning is a major health concern that should be addressed to prevent other cases of dry drowning among children. Without the knowledge of dry drowning, many more children may suffer the same fate as Frankie because of ignorance regarding the severity of the matter. The media also indicates that it is important for families to understand what dry drowning means and how to identify the symptoms. Furthermore, the media reports that parents should take their children to the hospital when they notice symptoms of an ailment that they cannot disclose instead of ignoring the symptoms and case. In regards to public opinion, the media indicates that a nation-wide awareness program is important because it will educate the public about dry drowning and its impact on the society.

In a similar related news report by CNN, the CNN reporter Emanuel (2017) highlights the events that took place in Texas City. According to Emanuel (2017), Frankie died a week after a family trip to the Texas City Dike. The cause of death was dry drowning which he defines as a delayed physical condition in which the body reacts after inhaling water. During the Texas City trip on Memorial Day, Frankie was swimming in knee-deep water when a sudden wave knocked Frankie. However, after being picked up by a family friend who tagged along in the vacation, the four-year-old boy confirmed that he was fine. During the next day, Frankie had a minor complication of diarrhea and vomiting. Emanuel (2017) argues that the family took their son to see a doctor who wrongly diagnosed the symptoms as a slight case of a stomach bug. The family made a wrong decision to treat their child at home. However, Frankie continued to experience the symptoms all through the week. On Saturday morning after complaining of a shoulder pain, the family took Frankie to hospital where doctors tried to help him out but to no avail. He died an hour after being taken to the hospital. On his account, Delgado, Frankie's father reveals the events that occurred on Saturday morning; Frankie woke up, took a deep breath, and never exhaled. Doctors suspected that Frankie's cause of death was dry drowning. According to Holohan (2017), the symptoms of dry drowning after 24 hours include shortness of breath, fever and an unusual persistent cough (Emanuel, 2017).

The significant trend that the CNN article represents is that most families are not aware of the dry drowning condition. Also, after being diagnosed by a real doctor who confirmed that Frankie was only suffering from a stomach bug, the article also presents the idea that some doctors are unfamiliar with the dry drowning condition. In regards to primary and community health care, it is important that physicians understand the symptoms of dry drowning to prevent future misdiagnosis of the condition. The CNN article further shapes public opinion by stressing on the need to create an awareness campaign of dry drowning.

Holohan (2017) of also discussed the issue of Frankies death. According to Holohan (2017), dry drowning and secondary drowning are rare conditions, which can cause a fatality. Furthermore, the author explains how dry drowning occurs by arguing that water, which is inhaled through the nose or drunk can be trapped in the vocal cords. The result is that an individual with trapped fluids in the airways will asphyxiate and die. The water that is inhaled and trapped in the airways does not reach the lungs (Holohan, 2017). However, the muscles in the airways close to prevent water from entering the lungs, which causes asphyxiation. Like dry drowning, secondary drowning occurs, in the same manner, making children have difficulties when breathing. Preventing children from experiencing dry drowning and secondary drowning is important. For example, parents need to teach their children how to swim to keep them from inhaling water during a bath or while swimming (Holohan, 2017).

The significant trend that the article presents is that there is little awareness of secondary and dry drowning. Primary and community health care organizations should develop awareness programs to teach parents about dry and secondary drowning. In line with public opinion, it is clear that more information needs to be made available to the press to inform people about secondary and dry drowning.

In a similar report, CBS News reported the events that occurred to Frankie Delgado. When airway muscles spasm to prevent water from reaching the lungs, inflammation, and swelling occur, this prevents a child from normal breathing. CBS News encourages parents to be more careful with their children when they go for a swim. Symptoms such as fatigue, sleepiness, persistent cough after a swimming experience require quick medical attention (CBS, 2017). Like the three previous articles by CNN, and Fox News the main issue that the article presents is the lack of awareness regarding dry coughing. It is important that the government, through major primary and community health care organizations, start awareness programs that aim to educate parents about the dry drowning condition, its symptoms, and treatment.


Under normal circumstances, and while breathing, the diaphragm contracts resulting in the expansion of the lungs, a condition that allows for air into the lungs because of the negative pressure created (Szpilman et al., 2012). Air passes to the larynx and into the upper airways and fills the lungs. Any disruption of the entire process may cause difficulty in breathing and or death. Labored breathing occurs as air is forced through the larynx and into the lungs. A disruption may be caused by a foreign object or water, inhaled into the larynx. Labored breathing occurs as the larynx spasms close up, causing a vacuum. According to Szpilman et al., (2012), the condition also causes difficulty in letting out carbon dioxide. If the situation or condition persists for long, the victim may die due to lack of oxygen reaching the brain and acidosis, a condition in which carbon dioxide is blocked and cannot be let out. With the heart beating and pumping blood through the body, the volume in circulation increases putting a strain on the ventricles. Beeck et al., (2005) argues that to counter the increased volume, the ventricle pumps the blood faster into the arteries and stream. Due to the deoxygenated blood, the lungs changes, narrowing in size and thin to allow more oxygen into the blood flow. Due to the spasms caused by the obstruction (water), there only exists a vacuum causing some fluids into the lungs. In simple terms, the victim is said to drown in his or her fluids. Additional regular procedures of the nervous system cause further damage to the lungs resulting into more liquids into the airspaces of the lungs.

Although the dry drowning is rare, Beeck et al., (2005) maintain that it accounts for a significant percentage of drowning. Approximately, it accounts for 2 percent of drowning incidents in the United States. Despite the low incidents, pediatricians acknowledge that it is important to stay alert of any of the warning signs especially coughing immediately after exiting the water, labored breathing, and a change in behavior. In such a case, parents are urged to seek for medical help to check on the victim's oxygen level, the rate of breathing, and any vital sign pointing to a change in behavior. Although it may be sporadic, if a victim cannot breathe on their own, the use of a ventilator may be necessary to increase the inflow of blood into the lungs and bring back breathing to normal levels (Beeck et al., 2005).

Over the years, medical experts argue that children suffer most while swimming or taking a shower due to their small body size. Szpilman, Joost, Handley, and Orlowski argue that children of between the age of 4 and 14 are the primary victims of dry drowning. Economically, Szipilmanet (2012), argues that most deaths occur in regions and areas less informed on the dangers of swimming. For example, Szpilman et al., (2012) argue that in the United States, parents and swimming instructors have core competencies and knowledge on dry drowning and often stay alerted while having children in the pool. Less developed countries such as Thailand have a high rate of dry drowning due to ignorance and lack of details about the risks of the condition. Intensified and concerted efforts in raising awareness on dry drowning are thus necessary for both developed and under-developed countries to reduce the deaths and complications that arise from dry drowning. Beecket et al., (2005) maintain that public awareness is the sure bet to lessen the number of casualties stemming from dry drowning.


I do agree that dry drowning is a major concern for medical practitioners and entail a call for healthy living practices and measures in social circles.

At the same time, I do agree that poor, inconsistent reporting in particular by the media on dry drowning has led to the lack of appropriate amongst the public.

The public does not have sufficient information and knowledge on the lead up to dry drowning.


I find it challenging to comprehend that a small amount of water in my lungs can cause such a major health concern.

Socially, dry drowning is a challenge to many guardians and parents while protecting their children. Due to the complicated nature of the condition, the majority of parents or guardians do not know at what point should they seek medical attention or treatment. At the same time, lack of information on the difference between ordinary drowning and dry drowning often create confusion amongst parents, guardians, and caretakers in and within the swimming pool (Szpilman et al., (2012). However, with concerted efforts to creating awareness, it is possible to address the condition and avert the impac...

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