VIDEO: Doctors warn of ‘dry drowning’ dangers after 4-year-old Texas boy’s death

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Four-year-old Francisco Delgado III died a week after he went swimming with his family at the Texas City Dike over the Memorial Day weekend, KTRK reports.

Over the holiday weekend, the child complained of an upset stomach but his parents said they didn’t think much of it. As the week went on, his family tells KTRK they thought he was getting better but on Saturday, June 3, the child said his shoulders were hurting before taking his last breaths a few hours later.

“They were still working on him. I’m screaming. Let me just touch my baby. Maybe he needs his mama’s touch,” his mother told KTRK, describing medics’ attempts to resuscitate her son. His official cause of death has not been released.

Dr. Eric Higginbotham, the medical director of the emergency department at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, says the dangers — although extremely rare — of dry or delayed drowning exist even after your day at the pool.

A delayed drowning happens when water enters the lungs, but the effects don’t appear until hours or days later, but usually within 48 hours. “It happens when someone breathes in small amounts of water during a struggle in the water, which makes the airway muscles spasm and breathing becomes difficult,” a warning from Dell Children’s described.

This can lead to breathing trouble, brain injury and even death, if untreated.

The medical center recommends being on alert if someone has a “close call” with drowning. The symptoms of dry drowning are one of the less commonly recognized risks, Higginbotham says.

The symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, sudden changes in behavior, fatigue or coughing. The doctor warns these symptoms can be hard to identify, especially in younger kids who could be fussy or tired after a long day in the water.

If you think someone is having these symptoms, go to the emergency room, “because time is of the essence when it comes to dry drowning,” Higginbotham continued.

Once at the hospital, breathing can be stabilized with oxygen or ventilation and water in the lungs will be absorbed over time. The medical center’s key point: pay attention! It’s important to closely supervise kids at all times. Adults who are watching kids should avoid all distractions, like talking on the phone, playing games or drinking alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dell Children’s ER Dr. Winnie Whitaker told KXAN it happened once with her own son. “As we were in the pool with him, he was on a floatie and he happened to slip off. And I looked away for a second and he was down at the bottom of the pool kicking back up. And you know we grabbed him right away but that was a good lesson, even for me as a parent, that it can be super fast and they’re not screaming and splashing. It’s pretty silent.”

Drowning, in general, is the second leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-14 years old, and the fifth leading cause for people of all ages, the CDC says.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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