Doctor: Lots of misinformation about ‘dry drowning’

(File photo)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s become a term that strikes fear and concern in parents, especially in the summer months: dry drowning.

“We are seeing families who are just in a panic,” Dr. Erica Michiels of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.

Saturday night, 8-year-old Mekhi Ivy died at the hospital after he was pulled from a pool earlier that day near Hudsonville. His family said they were told he died as a result of dry drowning. However, an autopsy conducted Tuesday determined the boy drowned under more regular circumstances.

Meanwhile, the concern over dry drowning has only grown after a recent story out of Texas made national headlines.

CNN reported that a young boy there went under the water last month, but was OK. It wasn’t until the next night that he started having problems. Those problems persisted. Then, days later, the boy died. Doctors found water in his lungs and told his parents he died due to dry drowning.

But now, some doctors in the U.S. — including Dr. Michiels — are fighting back against those reports.

“It’s unfortunate misinformation that you could have a child who played in the water, looked absolutely normal for days afterwards, and then suddenly drowned or had a dry drowning episode. That’s something that we really don’t see,” Michiels said.

Michiels has researched drownings for 10 years. She said the term ‘dry drowning’ is confusing and often used to describe two or three different things. She said drowning experts abandoned the term long ago.

“I think we need to throw the term out. I think it is incredibly confusing,” Michiels said. “We need to let parents know that if their child had an event in the water — and had any difficulty breathing, coughing or just aren’t acting themselves, don’t want to eat when they should, those kinds of things immediately afterwards — that they should seek medical care.”

But if problems don’t arise soon after an issue in the water, Michiels said parents can ease their concerns.

“We’re hearing this timeline get longer and longer and longer in news reports, that this can happen days or weeks away, and it’s really hours. If you’re not seeing any symptoms within 24 hours of the event, you’re not going to see symptoms that are related to that child having been in the water,” Michiels said.

It’s important to remember that other problems, aside from lung damage, can arise after time spent in the water. Doctors say it’s important to be vigilant if you notice anything unusual with your child after a day on the water.

Michiels said her biggest concern is raising awareness to prevent drownings altogether. She said it’s import that children who don’t swim well always wear lifejackets and suggests that parents be designated to watching kids closely while they’re in the water.