For most individuals, the term drowning signifies a single type of incident - a victim, unable to resurface, suffocates under the water. However, there are some distinctions within the 'drowning category' that bear importance elaborating on.
The drowning accident attorneys at the Haggard Law Firm are all too familiar with these kinds of tragedies and, by presenting the following article, hope that this knowledge will increase awareness and ultimately reduce the number of victims who drown each year.
Depending on which expert you ask, you're likely to get a different answer to how many drowning classifications exist. Below, we discuss the most commonly differentiated types of drownings when considering the nature of the incident as well as the physiological response of the victim.
An active drowning is what feature films have taught us a drowning looks and sounds like - a victim, unable to completely hold themselves above the surface, will splash erratically and tread water while also calling out for help.
Active drowning can be considered a stage in the drowning process. However, it's important to note that many drowning victims do not make any noise at all, whether verbally or by splashing. As a result, it is poor practice to reason that if someone is not making some sort of noise that they are not in distress.
As with the previous classification, passive drowning can also be considered a stage. Passive speaks to a victim who is unconscious and no longer fighting to stay afloat.
The term wet drowning refers to circumstances in which the victim inhales water into their lungs. This often occurs when the victim is gasping for air while unable to remain above the surface.
When inhaled water makes its' way to the lungs, it can damage the lining inside. Once the lining is damaged, oxygen will have a hard time passing from the lungs into the blood, further exacerbating the asphyxiation.
Dry drownings are a highly controversial topic. The term is used to describe a situation in which a small amount of water is inhaled. As a physiological reflex, the body will automatically close the larynx (windpipe) to prevent more water from entering and harming the lungs. At the same time, this also prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs, so even if the victim is gasping for air above the surface, the attempts will be unsuccessful as the airway is blocked.
Past studies have produced conflicting results as to whether dry drownings occur or not. Some experts even reject the classification outright and simply call the incident a drowning.
Secondary drownings, while less well-known, are also incidents to watch out for.
When an individual is said to have been drowning but they are rescued and ultimately survive the ordeal, they should be carefully monitored. This is because drowning victims likely ingest some quantity of water, however small, during the traumatic event.
As mentioned earlier, the inhalation of water into the lungs can damage the internal lining of the same. When the lining is damaged, inflammation within the lungs can manifest; this can make it quite difficult for the victim to catch their breath. However, the onset of this inflammation may occur hours after the incident. Victims may report feeling 'OK' after an incident only for their health to decline rapidly hours later.
As a result, persons who nearly drowned should be monitored closely if not put under the supervision of a medical professional. Some symptoms of secondary drowning to consider include vomiting, coughing, and difficulty breathing.