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Experts advise parents about secondary drowning

Secondary drowning prevents oxygen from getting into lungs

SAN ANTONIO – Now that summer is in full swing, it's typical to see kids jumping in the water to cool off, but even when they're out of the water, danger could be lurking if you don't know what secondary drowning looks like.

Water safety experts advise parents to keep a constant eye on their children when they're in the water because it could be a matter of life or death. 

Anthony Charles Ward knows all too well the dangers of water.

When he was 8 years old he almost drowned.

Now as a father, he makes sure his 7-year-old learns how to swim.

"He's getting a lot out of it. He's learning. Every corner he turns, he's giving us a thumbs up," said Ward.

While most parents know what drowning looks like, many aren't as familiar with secondary drowning. 

That's when a rush of water enters the lungs causing them to swell the fluid accumulates, preventing oxygen from getting in. 

Dr. Lillian Liao said secondary drowning can happen up to eight hours after exposure and anyone who's been in the water and nearly drowned needs to be monitored.

Signs parents should look for are fatigue, extreme change in behavior, chest pain, or coughing. 

"You can have anywhere from three milliliters, so that's like a few drops of water to have these symptoms, so it's not the amount of water that's inhaled, it's really kind of a reaction that the body gives to any amount of water that's inhaled," said Liao.

Among all drownings in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control  said children between the ages of one and 14 account for about 20 percent of victims.

However, the CDC doesn't keep statistics on the number of secondary drowning.

The YMCA of San Antonio teaches nearly 2500 children how to swim each year.

Having them learn from a nationally certified swim instructor can make the child more aware of any dangers from any body of water.

"These instructors know what to look for, so they know how to progress the children through the levels," said senior aquatic director, Crystal Jonas.

Liao adds that any foreign fluid or object that gets into the lungs, the body can and most likely will have a reaction to it.

For more information on the prevention of secondary drowning or to find out what to do when you see symptoms head to the Centers for Disease Control's website.