According to a recent news report on WNCT, every summer there are stories in the headlines about parents finding their children dead days after they go swimming; and we see the term surfacing across the web. Drowning doesn’t always happen immediately, it could happen hours or even days after submersion.

Last month, a four-year-old boy from Texas sadly lost his life this way. Several days after swimming, he passed away because, unbeknownst to his family, water had entered his lungs. According to reports he had not been feeling well but it seemed like he was battling a common stomach bug. It was not until he stopped breathing that his family realized something was terribly wrong. By that point it was too late.

So what exactly is dry drowning? And how can it be prevented?

Dry drowning can occur hours after a person is on dry land when water was accidentally inhaled. Although they occur less frequently than accidental drowning, this type of drowning is just as fatal, experts say. Dry drowning usually happens to a child when a wave suddenly washes over them, or when they’re dunked under the water’s surface unexpectedly.

If your child was submerged or accidentally ingested water, the experts at Texas A&M University suggest looking for the following signs:

  • Fast or difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Exhaustion, lack of energy and frequent urge to sleep
  • Lack of desire to eat or drink

Prevention from all of these signs is key. It only takes a few seconds for children to drown. For this reason, it’s crucial that parents or designated adults keep an eye on children at all times. Make sure your children know how to swim and aren’t just dependent on flotation devices. Families with backyard pools should make sure their fence or self-latching gate is in working order, to code and compliant drain covers to prevent children from becoming trapped below water by the suction.