What is secondary drowning?

It’s been over two hours since you and your son returned from swimming. While swimming, you had a rather large scare when he lost his footing on the handicap ramp and fell face-first into the water. Thankfully, you were close enough to pull him up after only a few seconds. However, ever since then, he’s been periodically coughing and complaining that his chest hurts.

What could be causing the problem? Should you take him to the hospital to be safe, even though it’s been hours since the incident?

Secondary Drowning Causes

Secondary drowning, or “dry drowning” occurs when someone inhales small amounts of water or fluid during a struggle. When there is fluid in the lungs, the muscles in the airway begin to spasm in order to try to expel the excess fluid, making it difficult to breathe and possibly causing fatal consequences.

  • Liquid pockets prevent the lungs from fully opening, restricting necessary amounts of oxygen from reaching the brain and vital organs.
  • Irritation and inflammation of the lungs can cause excess coughing, wheezing, and throat closures, preventing adequate oxygen intake.
  • Absorption of chemicals and bacteria from over-chlorinated pool water or dirty fluid can cause irritation, inflammation, or chemical side effects within the lung tissue, possibly deteriorating the tissue itself.


Always make sure you monitor any symptoms after swimming or heavy water exposure especially if possible water inhalation occurred. If you witness heavy coughing, wheezing, lethargy, fatigue, or labored breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Secondary drowning can be fatal even hours after the initial incident, so don’t hesitate to get a medical opinion if you feel something is wrong.

Make sure your family and friends are protected by sharing this page with them via Facebook, or tell them to contact us directly to discuss any potential questions or concerns they may have about a recent accident. Allow us to help you get the justice you deserve from those who have hurt you. Contact us today!