Drowning on Dry Land: The Overlooked Dangers of Dry and Secondary Drowning

Drowning on dry land? It sounds like a paradox, but it can really happen!

There are two types of drowning that can occur out the water: secondary drowning, and dry drowning. The first, secondary drowning, occurs when water gets into the lungs. When the water remains in the lungs, they can become inflamed, leading to blockage of the lower airway. Secondary drowning often follows a near-drowning experience; the victim might be fine after CPR or throwing up the water, but the water could remain in their lungs for hours after the initial incident. The symptoms of secondary drowning can sometimes resemble a cold or other minor illness:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing issues
  • Lethargy

After a near-drowning event, it’s important to remain vigilant, even in the relief that the victim survived. Once a victim is conscious and breathing, it might seem like the worst is over, but secondary drowning cannot be ignored, and near-drowning victims should be carefully watched for symptoms of secondary drowning.

The other type is dry drowning. Unlike secondary drowning, dry drowning doesn’t even involve the lungs. Instead, it occurs when water enters the throat, causing the vocal cords to spasm and block off the airway. Also unlike secondary drowning, dry drowning can occur even a few minutes after submersion in the water. Since it does not involve the lungs, the dangerous effects can happen very quickly.

Thankfully, both dry drowning and secondary drowning are rare. While drowning is a leading cause of death in children, only 2% of those deaths involve either type. Additionally, both types of drowning can be easily prevented through basic swimming safety.

  • When kids are old enough, have them take swimming lessons and learn about water safety
  • Teach kids not to roughhouse in the pool, and to only jump or dive in certain areas where the water is deep enough
  • Always supervise children while they are in the water, and if possible, have a trusted adult in the water with them
  • Remember that adults can become drowning victims, too — never swim under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Recognize the signs of distress, and know what to do if an incident occurs

Since we live in Florida, it will still be perfect swimming weather for months to come, so remember these swimming safety tips for all year long.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


Related Post

Leave us a reply