Here’s how you can die days after a mishap in the water…but it isn’t drowning.
The recent adventures of a boys’ soccer team from Thailand that ventured into a set of caves and almost died, are hard to imagine. How could one be trapped, deep beneath the earth, in such a sudden way?
With rain seeping in every crevice and rocky snag, drowning in inescapable water in a cave is the real deal. How about this, though: succumbing to your last breath up to a week after actually leaving the water- on dry land.
Some have called it ‘dry drowning’. It seems this is what happened back in 2017, to a boy from Texas. He died from complications linked to his submersion a full week after being hit by a wave while playing in shallow water.
He developed an inflammation of his hear muscle, called myocarditis from inhaling the water.
‘Dry drowning’ isn’t the right term to use, however, say emergency doctors. In fact, there is no such thing, they say.
“Some downplay the need for precise terminology,” write emergency physicians Andrew Schmidt, DO, MPH, Justin Sempsrott, MD, and Seth Collings Hawkins, “but words matter when describing something like drowning.”
The boy didn’t die from being submerged in water for too long, he died of a heart complication, they say.
What’s the true definition of drowning? “Respiratory impairment from submersion or immersion in liquid,” leading to reduced oxygenation (hypoxia).
Of course, inhaling water can be dangerous. If you or someone you know has inhaled water and is experiencing difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, confusion or altered mental state, low body temperature or a fever, seek medical help.
As the experts say, “if symptoms seem any worse than the experience of a drink going down the wrong pipe at the dinner table or severe coughing that does not resolve in minutes,” get yourself to a doctor.
Each year thousands of people die from drowning, resulting in almost 10 deaths each day. For swimming lesson resources, click here.