Blog Splash

The Facts About Non Fatal Drowning

May 29, 2017

Blog Splash, Swim Talk

Non-Fatal Drowning

(Previously known as dry drowning, secondary drowning, near drowning or delayed drowning)

There is a lot of misunderstanding about child drowning, and various drowning terms. Much of this is fuelled by the media - quick to circulate stories about “dry drowning” that scare parents unnecessarily, but do not provide the facts.

This article serves to explain the facts (and why parents needn’t fear that swim lessons at Waterwise could result in such an outcome).

What is Non-Fatal Drowning?

As it sounds, in a non-fatal drowning, the victim survives a drowning incident. It happens when water is taken in and results in breathing issues later, often hours after being in water. It is important to note that it follows a drowning incident, not a swimming incident. It does not happen unless there is a drowning of sorts. In all cases of non-fatal and fatal drowning, at some point no one was watching, or paying attention, to the child. It can happen when a child gets to water unseen and unheard, when a child is in floatation, or when parents are distracted even though they are right near the water.

How Does it Happen?

It is not easy to inhale water, as many people think. The body is incredibly good at protecting itself and there are mechanisms in place to prevent the inhalation of water. The epiglottis at the back of the throat blocks the airways to prevent water reaching the lungs. Any water ingested, can only go to the stomach where it is processed the same way as any other food or drink does. It is only if the epiglottis is compromised, which would be a known condition, or if a swimmer goes unconscious for any period of time, that water might get past the epiglottis and make its way to the lungs. In a swimming lesson, children are watched continuously, and they are conscious throughout the lesson.

Can My Child Drown by Drinking Too Much Pool Water?

Another misunderstanding is that children can take in too much water and somehow this water can then leak into the lungs. It is safe to drink up to a litre of water in an hour (and this actually takes considerable effort!). If a child drinks the pool water in a swimming lesson, it would be comparatively small amounts and it would go to the stomach. Instructors observe children in lessons very closely to make sure that any water taken in is limited, not only for the child’s safety, but also for their comfort. A tummy filled with water doesn’t always feel good.

The Warning Signs

If you ever felt your child could be at risk, symptoms might include excessive coughing, lethargy or unusual behaviour. You know your child best but, if you were alarmed spotting these signs and following a prolonged submersion (more than 30 seconds), get your child to a doctor without delay.

Survival Swimming Lessons with Infant Aquatics

Lessons are kept short and are conducted by a highly trained instructor. Survival swim specialists undergo intense training for 6 weeks and are trained not only in instructing, but also in human physiology and child psychology. Infant Aquatics is a leading survival swim instructor organisation. For more information, see and


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The Facts About Non Fatal Drowning

by Stacy Gower time to read: 1 min
4 Whyalla Street, Willetton | Telephone: 0420 780 155 | 499 Nicholson Road, Canning Vale | Telephone: 0402 987 625 |
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