Doctors determined “dry drowning” was the cause of death for a 4-year-old Houston, Texas, boy, June 3 – days after he had last gone swimming.
Parents Francisco Delgado Jr. and Tara Delgado told ABC 13 that they took their son Frankie swimming at the Texas City Dike near Houston on Memorial Day weekend. The boy, who the Delgados affectionately called “Baby Frankie,” seemed fine in subsequent days, but little did anyone in the family realize that his lungs were filling with fluid.
On the morning of Saturday, June 3, Frankie complained of his shoulders hurting. Hours later, he sat up suddenly from a sleep, yelled “Ahhhhhh,” and took his last breath.
He was rushed to East Houston Regional Hospital, but paramedics and doctors were unable to save him.
Dry drowning, which is also called “secondary drowning,” can occur hours or days after a child accidentally inhales water into the lungs through the nose or mouth. The water irritates the lungs, causing them to fill with fluid and results in respiratory distress.
The condition is fairly rare, but when it occurs it may go unnoticed until the child drowns from the inside out. Symptoms, which may appear 24 to 48 hours after inhaling water, can include coughing, fever, vomiting, mood swings, and difficulty breathing.
There is no way to predict which children will be affected by water in their lungs, but kids with asthma and other respiratory issues may be more susceptible to dry drowning than others.
“If a kid chokes or sputters after going under water but seems fine, he doesn’t need to go to the hospital,” Dr. Ray Pitetti of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh told NBC News. “But if several hours later he starts breathing faster and is finding it harder to breathe and starts coughing a lot, then you want to bring him in.”