‘Dry drowning’ and other myths

Abstract: Drowning is a common and often preventable cause of death, especially in children. The mass media often propagate misinformation about “dry” and “secondary” drowning, diverting attention from appropriate efforts to prevent drowning and rescue and treat those who do drown.


  • Drowning is a process of aspiration leading to hypoxia and eventually cardiac arrest. However, it is not synonymous with death: it can be interrupted.
  • Patients who have been rescued from drowning and who have minimal symptoms generally get better within 4 to 8 hours of the event.
  • Rescued victims should be warned that, although a rare condition, if they develop cough, breathlessness, or any other worrisome symptom within 8 hours of being in the water, they should seek medical attention immediately

Citation: Szpilman, D., Sempsrott, J., Webber, J., Hawkins, S. C., Barcala-Furelos, R., Schmidt, A., & Queiroga, A. C. (2018). ‘Dry drowning’and other myths. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine, 85(7), 529-535.