Boy drowned — hours after playing at the pool

One summer day cheerful 10-year-old Johnny Jackson went with a friend to go swimming at the pool. His mother picked him up after the fun morning in the sun and the two drove home.

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His mom Cassandra recalled chatting with him in the car about his exciting day swimming, and how when they got home, Johnny took a bath and put on some clean clothes.

Since the boy was exhausted she suggested that he take a nap. So far, it was a completely normal day.

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A little while later when she went in to check on him, she found herself facing a parent's worst nightmare. His face was covered with foam and he wasn't moving at all. She shook him and called his name but it was already too late. He was gone.

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An autopsy later explained the cause of death and when she heard it, Cassandra couldn't believe her ears: Johnny had drowned. But it wasn't what we usually imagine, it was something called dry drowning.

“I had never even heard of it. I couldn’t believe that such a thing existed,” says Cassandra. Unfortunately, most people don't know that you can drown even long after you've left the water.

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What happens with children is that they might have a "close call" at the pool and need to be pulled out, or just a moment when they accidentally swallow water. Then, possibly awhile later, the water causes them to suffer a laryngospasm (this can also happen to adults, though it's more often fatal in children). It's a protective reflex that tries to prevent water from entering the lungs, but it also limits the person's ability to breathe and can cause a heart attack.

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Inhaling water can be pretty treacherous. Kids may appear perfectly fine, but the swallowed water can lead to inflammation in the lungs or disruption of the gas exchange. Within a short period, often just a few hours, the resulting lack of oxygen can be deadly.

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Since young children's lungs are smaller and any water can stronger affect their respiratory system, they're more vulnerable than older children and adults.

This comprises only 1 - 2 % of drowning deaths, so it's important to keep things in perspective and know that you can still enjoy the pool. But in order to prevent this type of accident, look for following:

  • Heavy and persistent coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Pains in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing or hyperventilation 
  • Lethargy
  • Blue-colored lips

If any of these symptoms appear, the child (or adult) should be brought to the emergency room. You could be saving a life! Either way, it's a good idea to keep a sharp eye on your kids in the pool. And it's always good to do a First Aid course if you enjoy hanging out at the pool or beach. You never know when the knowledge and skills will come in handy. 

 

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