Did you know that you or your child can experience the same symptoms of drowning hours after leaving the water? It may sound crazy, but secondary drowning is an often un-recognized health problem that can occur after spending time at the pool or other bodies of water. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, director of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital, tells us everything we need to know. Rose Melendez


What is secondary drowning?

Nurse Rose: Secondary drowning is a breathing problem that occurs hours after you’ve left the water when you’ve accidently breathed water into your lungs while spending time in the water.


Who can this problem affect?

Nurse Rose: It can happen in adults, but is more common in children due to their small size. This happens when a child’s airway opens up, letting water into his lungs where it builds up, causing trouble breathing.


How do I know if my child is experiencing secondary drowning?

Nurse Rose: If your child was playing in the pool and you think they might have gulped down some water, watch out for the following symptoms.

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeling tired or lethargic

You might also notice a change in your child’s behavior because he or she isn’t receiving enough oxygen to the brain.

What should I do if I notice these symptoms?

Nurse Rose: Call 911 or take your child to the emergency department immediately. The changes in their behavior may not seem dramatic, but it’s important to get it checked out. There, your child will be monitored and possibly receive medicine to help flush the fluid out of the body.

Need care quick? With three full Emergency Departments and now three urgent care centers, Adventist HealthCare has you covered.

Additional Tips

Hear more health tips from Rose by tuning into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m.