Drowning in Hysteria
This article about “secondary drowning” (based on this one) is going viral on Facebook right now, thanks to George Takei sharing it with his 7,000,000+ followers with the admonishment: “Parents: This is something everyone with kids should know, especially as the summer months and days of swimming pools and ocean beaches are soon upon us.”
As most of us already know, any article that contains the phrase “Hidden Danger” in its title is following the tired formula of combining a mundanely regular activity or product with unexpected, sudden death. In this case, the mundane activity is swimming, which, of course, can be dangerous, and no one advocates for taking those dangers lightly. But the “unexpected, sudden death” part comes UP TO THREE DAYS AFTER THE KID DRIES OFF. You thought he was fine, but then:
“Secondary drowning can occur hours or even days after kids are done swimming, and can sneak up on pretty much anyone. It may not be too common, but it’s often fatal — yes, literally a parent’s worst nightmare. Here’s what you need to know about it…”
Ah, there it is again, that old chestnut: “a parent’s worst nightmare.” But can you avoid this vanishingly rare occurrence? Probably not, but hyper vigilance is suggested anyway, and the bold is mine:
“It goes without saying that you should be closely supervising your kids at the pool or ocean, but even if you’re watching them like a hawk — or a tiger mom — kids will be kids. If you see them come out of the water coughing, keep an eye on them for as long as you can after they’re done swimming.
Symptoms may not appear for up to 72 hours after swimming, but look out for unusual fatigue and lethargy, coughing, pale skin, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.”
Thinking back on my childhood in the ’70s, when groups of us elementary-aged kids rode our bikes to the public pool and spent the day there without our parents and, yes, occasionally breathed in a lungful of pool water, the idea of watching children for THREE FULL DAYS after every swim in the pool, lest they possibly DIE, sounds both futile and impossible.
“Sure, this may be just one more thing parents have to worry about, and it may annoy your kids because it means closer supervision, but better safe than sorry. Now that you’re equipped with this knowledge, go enjoy the summer!”
That last line seems like it came straight out of “The Onion” to me. “Now that you know your child is facing death both in AND out of the water, go have fun!”
The good news is that many of those commenting on Takei’s page are advocating for reason:
“Am I the only parent who has reached my limit of Dangerous Things that will kill my children at any moment? Too much information about the dangers of the world really can be harmful and anxiety-inducing.”
“This article fails to mention that this usually effects people, not just children, with compromised immune systems. Most healthy individuals will absorb the water as if nothing happened. I feel this article is just going to spread fear and leave people fearing a simple summer activity.”
“Your kid can also choke on his own saliva, develop an infection and get pulmonary edema. This is the risk of living. This article is only meant to incite fear. This CAN happen. You CAN also get hit by a meteor…are you really going to walk around worrying about it? Honestly, how often did you get pool water in your lungs as a kid? If you’re like me and everyone I know, it was a ton. We are all still here.”
And yet, predictably, 20 hours after it was posted, there are 20,000+ shares, and commenter after commenter saying something like, “Enjoy my summer? I am now thinking of NO swimming! Oh my goodness! Stay up all day and night for 72 hours to watch my child breathe. I shouldn’t be so worried as I am sure this is rare, but goodness! How scary!”
Perfect question: HOW scary? – Canada Mama