More Information About the Recent "Dry Drowning" Death - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

6/5/08

More Information About the Recent "Dry Drowning" Death

An unusual drowning in South Carolina is scaring parents everywhere.  Johnny Jackson, a 4th grader in Charleston, died more than an hour after swimming. He walked home from the pool and his mom says there was no immediate sign that anything was wrong, except that he was extremely tired. Johnny's mom, Cassandra Jackson, says that was no surprise after a day at the pool.  Johnny went to sleep and when Cassandra checked on him an hour later, he was dead. The coroner's report called his death asphyxiation by drowning.

Karin McCay went to the UMC Emergency Room to find out how that could happen and if there are any signs parents can watch for. Johnny's mom, Cassandra, said, "I went into the room walked over to the bed and his face was literally covered with spongy white material, and I screamed."  And Christine Meekins, a family friend, adds, "I pulled his arm and I said, 'Johnny, Johnny', but there was no response, and I opened one of his eyelids, and I just knew in my heart it was something really bad".

Dr. Craig Horton, an ER Physician at UMC, says that aside from what we know as a drowning, there is what is called a secondary drowning, or dry drowning, which happens in 10-15% of drowning deaths.  He says it can happen when a child takes in a lot of pool water and chemicals that can later make the airways inflamed.  However, he says to remember that it is very rare. He says it never happens without some warning signs, which must have gone unnoticed in that tragic case in South Carolina.

Craig Horton, M.D., UMC Emergency Room Physician, advises, "If they're not acting right, then pay attention.  If they have a coughing fit in the pool from sucking down water, then that may be something you need to observe.  The big tell tale sign is going to be an increased respiratory rate, breathing fast.  If they're breathing fast, they need to be evaluated."

Dr. Horton says parents should keep an eye on their kids for a couple hours after they leave the pool and if you notice a child is showing signs of respiratory distress then you should take them to the emergency room.

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