10-Year-Old Death Brings Attention to the Danger of 'Dry Drowning'

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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A 10-year-old boy in North Carolina died hours after he got out of the swimming pool from a phenomenon called "dry drowning," reported TODAY.

Dry drowning occurs when a person’s lungs are unable to extract oxygen from the air, thus depriving the brain of oxygen. It can be caused by a number of respiratory problems, but for Johnny Jackson, it was result of a small amount of water entering his lungs while he was swimming.

“I’ve never known a child could walk around, talk, speak and their lungs be filled with water,” said Cassandra Jackson to NBC News in a report broadcast Thursday on TODAY.

“We physically walked home," Jackson said. "He walked with me. I bathed him, and he told me that he was sleepy.”

Later on she checked on Johnny in his bedroom and found his face covered in “spongy white material.”

Johnny was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 10 to 15 percent of drowning deaths each year are classified as dry drowning. Dry drowning can also occur from apnea (holding of the breath), muscular paralysis, prolonged exposure to gases like methane and other conditions. Death usually occurs within 24 hours of lung submersion.

A pediatrician at New York University Langone Medical Center, Dr. Daniel Rauch, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira the signs of dry drowning are extreme tiredness, difficulty breathing and changes in behavior. Jackson said Johnny had an accident at the swimming pool that day in Goose Creek where he soiled himself. Rauch said that behavioral change was a sign of water in his lungs.

While these changes might be difficult to spot, Rauch said if a child experiences these symptoms and has been swimming they should be taken to an emergency room to be checked.

Doctors put a tube into the lungs and force oxygen into it if there is water in the lung. The lung eventually heals itself.

Jackson said she wishes she knew more about the strange phenomenon before Johnny’s death. She described her son as “very loving, full of life.”

Sources: TODAY, Medical News Today