Ealier this month a Texas family suffered a heartbreaking loss when their four-year-old son succumbed to a suspected (though not officially confirmed) case of secondary drowning. As a water safety and swimming instruction professional to very precious little fish, this is a topic I feel very strongly needs to be addressed. (Especially since we all know the hot, humid weather that comes along with the South Florida summers means packed beaches and pool parties!) With that, safety and drowning prevention ALWAYS come first, but unfortunately the media has created a panic and frenzy amongst parents by using false terms like "dry drowning," "secondary drowning," "near drowning," and "delayed drowning" that hold no concrete definition. There are really ONLY two terms that should ever be used to define what happens when someone suffers from respiratory impairment from being under water: Fatal Drowning and Nonfatal Drowning.While Fatal Drowning has only one, very awful result, Nonfatal Drowning outcomes can range anywhere from very minor to brain injury and permanent disability. So, if someone experiences respiratory impairment in the water, and survives, it is considered Nonfatal Drowning. When I explain this to the parents, the response I hear most often is “but you either drown or you don’t,” which is not the case. Since it can be a bit confusing, I use the analogy of choking to help them understand. For example, people sometimes say, “I choked on a piece of food today” but clearly they didn’t mean they died. They know choking is a process in which your airway becomes blocked, which is either fatal, or is interrupted, in which case you survive. Drowning, like choking, is essentially the same thing! If the process is interrupted, it’s Nonfatal Drowning.But why is this terminology such a big deal? Most importantly, any confusion about the language surrounding Nonfatal Drowning needs to be done away with. The more terms there are to describe the possible outcomes of drowning, the greater the opportunity there is for a parent to make an unfortunate, incorrect assumption over how to treat their child. If there is any concern at all that your child may have suffered any type of respiratory impairment, take them to the closest Emergency Room immediately. Trust your gut as a parent, and have your child checked by a medical professional.I will always hold the health and safety of your children above all else. It is my personal mission to prepare not only your children, but you as caring parents, for any situation that might occur. That is why it is so important to me that you understand the potentially significant effects of Nonfatal Drowning, and that you should always treat any situation involving it with the urgency it deserves.As always, thank you for all your support, be safe!
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