- The tragic death of a South Carolina 10-year-old more than an hour after he had gone swimming has focused a spotlight on the little-known phenomenon called "dry drowning" — and warning signs that every parent should be aware of.
“I’ve never known a child could walk around, talk, speak and their lungs be filled with water,” Cassandra Jackson told NBC News in a story broadcast Thursday on TODAY.
On Sunday, Jackson had taken her son, Johnny, to a pool near their home in Goose Creek, S.C. It was the first time he’d ever gone swimming — and, tragically, it would be his last.
"We physically walked home. He walked with me," Jackson said, still trying to understand how her son could have died. "I bathed him, and he told me that he was sleepy."
Later, she went into his room to check on him. "I walked over to the bed, and his face was literally covered with this spongy white material," she said. "And I screamed."
Ladies, before you start panicking and keeping your children out of the pool (or the bathtub), this phenomenon is extremely rare.
It seems a few important details were left out of the article. For example, was the little boy sick or in any respiratory distress after he got home? It sounds like he was because mothers don't normally bathe their 10-year-old sons, do they?
In the article it was noted that Johnny soiled himself in the pool which is why she bathed him. If Johnny lost control of his bowels in the pool then his mom should have noticed a change in his mental status or orientation.
Unfortunately, we don't have enough information to go on. But this is what I believe happened:
I believe Johnny developed respiratory distress syndrome after swallowing water which ended up deep in his lungs. He was probably able to cough most of the water up, except the small amount that made it into the tiny airways deep in the lungs.
Johnny slowly drowned because as he slept, the water deep in his lungs blocked the vital exchange of oxygen and CO2 in his lungs. The "spongy white material" that Johnny's mom described was most likely dried frothy sputum from his lungs that had bubbled up through his nose and mouth. To better understand this, imagine what happens when you blow air through a straw in a glass of milk.
The more you blow, the more bubbles you create.
Although this is extremely rare, here are the signs to look out for in your child:
- Difficulty breathing
- Fatigue which progressively gets worse
- A change in mood, normal behavior, mental status or orientation (your child soils himself and suddenly can't bathe himself)
This has been your Medical Minute!
Thanks to loyal reader, Tia Jones, for the link!