Can you drown after leaving the water?

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Whether you’re at the beach or pool, water safety is always important. But did you know your child could be at risk for drowning even after they leave the water?

We recently received this question from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,
I recently heard that children can drown after leaving the pool. Is this possible and what happens

Unfortunately, this is possible. Secondary drowning is rare and often happens in the hours following a near-drowning experience.

Fluid can build up in the lungs—known as a pulmonary edema— and blood oxygen levels drop after a small amount of water enters the lungs.   Secondary drowning can be difficult to recognize, as victims typically seem fine.

If a person has inhaled water, they may have trouble breathing, chest pain or a cough.

Be sure to monitor your child for 48 hours after swimming, keeping a lookout for changes in personality, awareness or energy levels. If recognized and treated early, blood oxygen levels can be returned to normal.

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