Prevent Secondary Drowning

Sep 22, 2014 | Blog Post | 0 comments

yacht dangers

How to Prevent Secondary Drowning After an Incident

Most boaters are well aware of drowning prevention strategies and yacht safety during emergency situations, but have you heard of secondary drowning?

This dangerous possibility, also called dry drowning, occurs after someone has had a water incident or near-drowning experience. Like an aftershock after an earthquake, secondary drowning can sneak up just when you think all is well – with fatal consequences.

As a yacht insurance company, our focus is on marine safety. Too many people are still not familiar with the dangers of secondary or dry drowning. Here is what our yacht insurance specialists want you to know:

What is secondary or dry drowning? If someone breathes in water, typically in a near-drowning experience, it triggers spasms in the airway. If too much fluid is inhaled into the lungs, the resulting pulmonary edema can cause breathing trouble.

How will I know if someone is experiencing secondary drowning? The problem with secondary or dry drowning is that someone who has inhaled water may not exhibit signs or symptoms right away. It is rare–experts estimate only one to two percent of drowning incidents — but without treatment, it can be fatal.

What are the common signs of secondary or dry drowning? They include trouble breathing, coughing, and overwhelming fatigue. Some people also complain of chest pain. The condition can be particularly tricky to diagnose in young children, who may be out of sorts after a near drowning incident or may have inhaled water for just seconds during what seems to be only a minor struggle. Symptoms usually present themselves within an hour to 24 hours after an incident.

What is the recommended treatment? If you see signs of secondary or dry drowning, get the person to an emergency room right away. The person requires oxygen or ventilation before the breathing problem becomes dire and results in brain injury (which can happen quickly). For young children who have had any sort of incident in the water or have been near drowning, consult an emergency room doctor to rule out secondary or dry drowning. This mother’s story of her experience with secondary drowning explains why the time before treatment is critical, and it is better to err on the side of caution.

How can I prevent secondary or dry drowning? Be vigilant in watching swimmers closely, especially young children or older children who want to engage in horseplay. Learn CPR and have family members take water safety and swimming lessons. Anytime young children are near water – even the bathtub – ensure you have an eye out for water safety.

Water safety is very important to our boat and yacht insurance company. Please help raise awareness of this important issue by sharing this article or others on social media and talking about it publicly. Together we can help save lives!

Did you know that first aid and boat safety courses often help reduce your boat and yacht insurance policy charges? Contact the marine insurance professionals at Global Marine Insurance to find out more.


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