Posted June 6, 2008 – Ten-year-old Johnny Jackson drowned Sunday about an hour after swimming in a pool; the result of a little-known phenomenon called “dry drowning,” NBC News reported Thursday.
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“I’ve never known a child could walk around, talk, speak and [his] lungs be filled with water,” Cassandra Jackson told NBC News in a story broadcast Thursday on "TODAY".
On Sunday, Jackson had taken her son, Johnny, to a pool near their home in Goose Creek, S.C. It was the first time he’d ever gone swimming. At some point during his swim, Johnny got some water in his lungs. He didn’t show any immediate signs of respiratory distress, but the boy had an accident in the pool and soiled himself. Still, Johnny, his sister and their mother walked home together, and then she bathed him and he put him to bed because he said he was sleepy, she said. Later, she went into his room to check on him, she found water coming out of his nose and he complained that he couldn’t breathe, reported Goose Creek Police.
“I walked over to the bed, and his face was literally covered with this spongy white material,” she said. “And I screamed.” The boy later died at Trident Hospital. The boy's lungs were filled with water and he died of delayed asphyxiation or what some call “dry drowning,” in which someone who swallows water excessively later drowns from the water that had build up in the lungs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 percent to 15 percent of the roughly 3,600 people drowned in 2005, the most recent year for which there are statistics, was classified as “dry drowning,” which can occur up to 24 hours after a small amount of water gets into the lungs. In children, that can happen during a bath.
There are three important signs of dry drowning, Dr. Daniel Rauch, a pediatrician from New York University Langone Medical Center, told TODAY: difficulty breathing, extreme tiredness and changes in behavior. All are the result of reduced oxygen flow to the brain. Rauch said that the phenomenon of dry drowning is not completely understood. But medical researchers say that in some people, a small amount of inhaled water can have a delayed-reaction effect. Those who observe someone suffering the symptoms, particularly the problem breathing, should seek immediate medical help for the person in distress, officials say.