“Secondary Drowning” = Boldly Going to a Whole New Level of Fear

Hi ekaahttzey
Readers — This comes to us from a mom of four in Canada, sick of the hysteria shoved (like pool water!) down our throats. – L

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 

Agreed: Supervise your kids at the pool. Disagree: And then supervise them for another 72 hours.

Agreed: Supervise your kids at the pool. Disagree: And then watch them like a hawk for another 72 hours.



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103 Responses to “Secondary Drowning” = Boldly Going to a Whole New Level of Fear

  1. J.T. Wenting June 6, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    I must have died from “secondary drowning” a thousand times, I’ve gone swimming that much.

    Just another utter and complete fantasy brought on by a society where ignorance is valued more than knowledge, where being called a sheeple is considered the highest praise that can be given to someone.

  2. Montreal Dad June 6, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Et tu, Takei?!

  3. Powers June 6, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    Fantasy? Are you denying, J.T., that this is a real phenomenon?

    Look, this isn’t paranoia. While I despair that this is leading some people to consider prohibiting their kids from swimming (that’s silly), it’s not silly or overprotective to ”keep an eye on kids” and know that unusual lethargy after swimming can be a warning sign for something very very serious.

    And yes, it can be prevented, Lenore; did you even read the article? Knowing that this sudden change in a child’s activity could be secondary drowning is key to getting the kid medical attention in time.

    By all means, send the kid swimming. You don’t even need to watch them like a hawk for three days. Just watch them, normally, and be aware of any changes in behavior. That’s good advice even if they haven’t been swimming, don’t you think?

  4. Maribel June 6, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    My son nearly drowned when he was 3 due to the REQUIRED fence around the pool and, my own negligence. I was with two other moms and their kids swimming. We all got out and were snacking and chatting on potato chips. None of the moms noticed that the boys slipped through the opening in the fence, moved along the edge, and my son fell in the deep end. When I saw, he was underwater and still holding his breath with a panic in his eyes. But, I couldn’t jump in and get him. I had to run the whole way around the fence, get in through the opening at the shallow end, and swim to the deep end. He is 14 and those few minutes were the worst of my life. The fence caused more trouble than it was worth.

  5. Sharon Davids June 6, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    I have been swimming for many years and never heard of this. I want to go swimming now and have fun!!

  6. lora June 6, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    I think it’s definitely going too far to say parents need to freak out about every time a child coughs while swimming. However, these articles did raise awareness for parents who might not know that a child who suffers a near-drowning event (significant submersion) but “seems fine” should be checked out by a doctor. Since near-drownings are NOT uncommon (I’ve witnessed three myself), it’s a good public service. Naturally, it’s been taken too far, but Lenore, drowning is one of the real dangers out there, like car accidents. It’s no stranger abduction.

  7. brian June 6, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    Powers–Yes I am denying this is a real phenomena in any kind of a statistically likely/probable way for a normal healthy person. Worrying about it is akin to preparing for when you win the lotto jackpot.

    There is absolutely no benefit to knowing about this obscure problem. As you point out, if a kid is lethargic you should take notice. First try the obvious, ask if they fell and hit their head, make sure they are hydrated, check for heat stroke. If it persists, go see a doctor.

    I also strongly object to the “watching them after they go swimming” as if going swimming in the summer is a once in awhile activity. Once summer starts I hope my kids never spend more than 3 consecutive days out of the town pool.

  8. brian June 6, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Lora–this is exactly the problem. You just added rules that aren’t even in the article! There is nothing about near drowning being more likely to cause this than simple coughing in the bath tub. No one suggests going to see a doctor for near drowning events. Stop making up safety protocols.

  9. Vicki Bradley June 6, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Powers, you ask Lenore if she even read the article (why you ask that, I don’t understand -it’s obvious she read the article), so I ask you: did you even read Lenore’s comments?

  10. tana June 6, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    I didn’t read the article as alarmist at all. Yes, it’s ridiculous that some people may ruin their kids’ summers over a statistical anomaly, but I appreciate the information for myself.

  11. anonymous mom June 6, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    @lora, I think that’s the issue, that a distinction isn’t being made between situations where a parent should exercise a little extra caution (after a true near-drowning event) and situations where it’s unnecessary (after a child has been having a normal day playing in the pool or lake or ocean, which will probably involve a little coughing at some point).

    The problem with asking parents to be on high alert for things like “unusual lethargy” is that most children are “unusually lethargic” after a few hours of water play. I know that my two oldest, who wouldn’t normally take a nap if I paid them, are pretty much guaranteed to take a nap or go to bed early after a day of sun and swimming. My kids also have a tendency to get unusually cranky for a bit after a day like that, which, again, could easily translate into worry about “behavior changes.”

    From other things I’ve read on this issue–because it *is* very alarming when you first hear about it–there are much more obvious signs than “unusual lethargy.” The child will in nearly all cases have demonstrated significant coughing and difficult breathing after coming out of the water. An even halfway alert parent would notice that, as well as having noticed that their child nearly drowned (not “swallowed a tiny bit of water” but “nearly drowned”).

    So, yes, these things do on rare occasion happen. They are certainly more common than stranger abductions. But, the issue isn’t that a normal, uneventful day at the swimming pool can lead to death if the parent doesn’t rush their child to the doctor because they want to take a nap after three hours of swimming, but that a child who nearly drowns and then immediately after they come out of the water demonstrates extremely forceful coughing and trouble breathing should be checked out anyway or watched for continuing symptoms even if those immediate severe symptoms subside.

    The way this story is presented on Facebook, though, it does lead to the conclusion that “secondary drowning” is a significant risk to any child after any swimming, so parents must be on high-alert for days every time their child goes into the water, and that’s just not true. An uneventful day at the pool or beach (i.e., no near drowning) would not warrant any extra watchfulness or concern over a child being more tired than they normally might be (which, of course they will be after a day swimming in the sun).

  12. anonymous mom June 6, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    @brian, the article doesn’t say that near drownings are more likely to cause this than simple coughing, but that’s because it was a bad article. In reality, in all cases near drownings lead to secondary drowning, not normal coughing. And since near-drownings are far less common than a child swallowing a bit of water and coughing, knowing that the former is a cause for concern but not the latter is important.

  13. SOA June 6, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    You know what? I am okay with putting the secondary drowning info out there. Yes, I never knew about it until now. But I am glad I do know. It is not going to stop me from taking my kids swimming every day or letting them play in the bath. It won’t change my actions at all, but I will at least know what it is and if I see the signs of it or if my kids have a near drowning I now know to go ahead and get them to the hospital just in case.

    I don’t see this being anti-free range.

  14. Warren June 6, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    Secondary drownings are even rarer than stranger abductions in people with underlying health issues. Secondary drowning is almost non existant in healthy individuals. The only reason it made the news was because no one ever heard of it before, and that makes for great shock value, thus great ratings for fear mongering media.

  15. Thea June 6, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    I so want to share this on fb. But after I got blasted for posting Lenore’s post about how criminals aren’t really looking at the stickers on your car in response to a county PSA fb post that was over the top, I’m not up for the flames. I clearly don’t care about the safety of my family.

    Lenore is right now. Drowning is horrible and pool safety is important. But this doesn’t happen nearly as much as the posting would lead you to believe. I’m also sure that sucking in a mouthful of water, which I did countless times as a kid, is very different from almost drowning.

    All this will do is make paranoid parents more paranoid and kids even more fearful of water.

  16. lora June 6, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Brian, the linked article was a bad article, but I am not making anything up. Dry drowning, secondary drowning, etc is something that happens after people have a serious problem in the water. Part of the issue here is that the initial article that went out about a toddler in a spa may have underplayed what happened. That child almost drowned. She said “20 seconds” underwater. It was likely more, but in case, 20 seconds underwater inhaling water is a pretty long time. If you were watching a child who could not swim struggle under the water for that amount of time, you would be freaking out. Other articles talk about it requiring “only 4 ounces” of water. That’s half a cup. If my child is taking half a cup of water into his lungs at the pool (not DRINKING it–inhaling it into his lungs), that is a serious issue.



  17. anonymous mom June 6, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    I thought this was a helpful, well-balanced blog post from a few years ago about this. Again, yes, parents should exercise reasonable caution after a near-drowning, but no, they don’t need to worry about kids after a normal day of swimming.


  18. CrazyCatLady June 6, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    A friend of mine shared that. But then, she won’t let her kids go above there knees in the river anyhow. Partly she is worried about currents, and yes, when a kid started coughing last Monday, she brought it up. Everyone was kind of “eh.”

    I like knowing that there are preceding conditions that make this more likely. In all of my years of life guarding (and training that goes with it,) I never once heard of this. And, because it is so rare, apparently, Red Cross didn’t think I needed to know either. (Though I would be interested to know if they include it as a mention now. Probably not because this is something that happens when kids act normally – not kids who are drowning.)

  19. Nico June 6, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    Dang. I spent so much time in the water as a kid during summer that I very nearly grew gills and fins. My mother didn’t keep a terribly obsessively close eye on us either. I spent summers on the lake and in the pool.

    And lo, every single one of us survived. We learned to swim shortly after we learned to walk.

    Think I’ll not panic, and take my boy to the pool just as often as we can. He did inherit his mama’s love of the water.

  20. lollipoplover June 6, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Key phrase from article:
    “It may not be too common, but it’s often fatal — yes, literally a parent’s worst nightmare.”

    Unusual lethargy, loss of appetite, etc. are something parents should always keep an eye on in children, not just after swimming. Kids die of complications from the flu with these same symptoms all year long. Other less common ways for your kid to die this summer- bee stings, being struck by lightning, falls on slippery decks, lawn mower accidents, boating accidents, car accidents.

    Let’s just stay indoors everyone and hunker down.
    But watch out for that big screen TV on your wall that could fall and kill your child.

  21. anonymous mom June 6, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    @SOA, I don’t think the problem is with people being aware that secondary drowning is a thing that happens, but with how it’s presented.

    This story didn’t present factual information about secondary drowning (like that it’s not going to happen unless there was a near-drowning where the child took a significant amount of water into their lungs AND that even in that case it’s still highly unlikely to affect healthy children), but instead took the common media tactic of acting as if there’s this huge, hidden threat to children that parents must be on high-alert for, and that a normal, uneventful day of swimming or even a typical evening bath can end in death, so you better be on high alert all the time.

    As lora noted, 20 seconds underwater is a long time, especially for a toddler. It’s not like a toddler underwater for 20 seconds would go unnoticed by a parent until the child died days later. Should parents be aware that a toddler who is breathing in water for 20 seconds might be at risk even if they don’t stop breathing? Yes. But, that’s different from the implication that uneventful water play can lead to death up to 3 days later.

  22. SKL June 6, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    “look out for unusual fatigue and lethargy, coughing, pale skin, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.”

    Well, if I saw my kid having those symptoms, I would not need to have heard about “secondary drowning” to get concerned and consider whether medical attention is necessary.

    And no, I do not have to keep my kids constantly within arm’s reach in order to know that they are breathing. If anyone is in distress, there are all kinds of ways for me to find out immediately.

  23. bug June 6, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    I was really glad to know about the symptoms of secondary drowning from that article. A granola approach when a child is feeling off is generally to let him be and let him sleep it off. The article makes clear that you should trust your gut and know that a few other symptoms can indicate a serious problem, which “sleeping it off” would exacerbate horribly. I won’t change how I let my son swim, but I will be more alert if he takes in too much water, then shows any of the symptoms in the article.

    Similarly, there’s another one going around out there about a kid who fell into a giant hole dug at the beach and got buried like quicksand. That’s not going to make me keep my kid from digging — but it will help me remember to have him fill in his holes before we go home, as a kindness to others walking on the beach, if it’s a public beach.

  24. Havva June 6, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    Okay, my dad is a doctor, my mom a nurse and a physical therapist. They were perfectly capable of worrying. Should have seen what a night looked like when they suspected I hit my head after bedtime and I was “lethargic” aka tired.

    I was also a kid with a bad habit of breathing in pool water. And when I was tired after a good swim (and one or two instances of breathing in the water, per usual) they would recommend a break and a snack. If I was still tired, they would say something about getting good exercise and send me off to read or take a nap (by myself).

    Obviously if your kid has trouble breathing and is acting like they aren’t getting enough air (be it after swimming or not) *that* is an emergency. Be it from secondary drowning or not it falls under the ABCs of first aid. And my dad has listened to my lungs on lord knows how many occasions. But we aren’t teaching parents to take a listen to then lungs. Just telling them ‘your kid could DIE!!!’ Just what we all need right, free floating anxiety.

    I have a lovely little pediatric medicine book, from an ER doctor trying to help eliminate the 50% of cases that don’t need the ER, It is called “If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay: How to Know if Your Child’s Injury or Illness Is Really an Emergency” It tries hard to put things in perspective.

    After reading the whole thing the main takeaway seemed to be. Your child’s behavior will tell you how bad it is. And screaming is a sign of good lung function.

    Taking a non-doctor guess as to what she would say. If your kid swam all day and breathed in some pool water and is tired but still shouts that they want ice cream… they kid isn’t secondary drowning. If the kid is pale and doesn’t want to get up even if offered an ice-cream, get into a doctor today. (Be it 78+ hrs since the last swim or 2). If the kid is turning gray/blue and can hardly talk call 911.

  25. Warren June 6, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Okay best to just cancel summer.

  26. SOA June 6, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Having two kids with moderate to mild asthma, I could see easily mistaking the signs of secondary drowning as asthma flare up. So I would not think to take them to the hospital, I would just give them breathing treatments which would not help the secondary drowning and as someone else said let them sleep it off. So again, I am glad I know am aware of secondary drowning and its symptoms. If my kids had a near drowning but were fine and walking and talking I would think we could avoid the hospital visit. Now I know better.

    I am a knowledge is power kind of person. I don’t have a problem with knowledge. It is whether or not you let it keep you from enjoying life that causes issues and we don’t let that happen.

  27. Puzzled June 6, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    I was Chief of EMS for the nation’s largest suburban park district for 5 years. Yes, secondary drowning is real. I also never had a reported case of it in those 5 years, or for that matter, the 9 years I was with the agency. We followed up, when possible, on anything resembling a near-drowning, so I’m pretty sure none happened. So, it’s quite rare.

    It’s also far more likely with salt water than with pool water, although it can happen with pool water due to the chlorine content.

    Most importantly – it doesn’t occur after a kid gets out of a pool coughing. It occurs when a significant amount of water makes it into the lungs, then is removed in a manner that leaves behind salt or chlorine – that is, if it’s all coughed out, it’s not going to cause secondary drowning. If some water is in the alveoli, the water can be absorbed, leaving the salt behind, and later osmosis can cause secondary drowning.

    The alarmist response is certainly wrong, but so is the anti-alarmist response some have adopted of pretending that the physiology is wrong.

    I made sure my staff was educated on the topic, and had them educate patients who might be at risk – not because I wanted to cause a panic, but because it’s worth knowing about. It’s unlikely that anyone we educated about it was at actual risk – an actual near drowning would have been sent to the ER anyway, but we did educate those who came out sputtering after serious distress in the water. We did not provide this information to parents whose kids swallowed water and came out coughing – it was more likely to produce an unnecessary ER visit than anything else.

  28. anonymous mom June 6, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    I don’t think Lenore was denying the importance of water safety at any point. She ends by saying it’s important to supervise kids at the pool. And, a parent appropriately supervising a child in the water would notice any incidents serious enough to warrant being a bit more watchful later.

    Again, though, the takeaway is not “If your child has a very serious incident of distress in the water or nearly drowns, and then later shows serious symptoms that should raise a red flag for alert parents anyway, don’t ignore it” but “If your child so much as coughs when coming out of the water, they could die, so you have to monitor them closely for at least three days and assume they’ll probably die if they exhibit anything even slightly out of the ordinary, like being a bit more tired than usual.”

    The article opens with the warning that secondary drowning “can sneak up on pretty much anyone.” Except, it CANNOT sneak up on anyway. Unless a child has taken half a cup of water into their lungs–and inhaling half a cup of water isn’t a no-big-deal, you-wouldn’t-even-notice-it thing–they are not going to die of secondary drowning. Presenting it that way isn’t providing solid, useful information about something parents are probably unaware of but might benefit from knowing, but is just alarmist, fear-mongering click-bait. Which is the issue. You aren’t going to get any hits if your story is “Near-drownings followed by serious symptoms are a reason to seek medical attention.”

  29. Reziac June 6, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    As anonymous mom points out: Secondary drowning happens subsequent to primary drowning, and does so with such regularity that primary drowning is cause for hospitalization (especially if it involved seawater). The reason as it was explained to me is that after a real drowning, your lungs can temporarily lose their proper osmotic balance, so can ‘leak’ and fill up with fluid. (Incidentally this can also happen after a C-section, no drowning required.)

    But if choking on a bit of water and coughing it out were a cause of secondary drowning, every time you “swallow wrong” you should wind up drowned, and it doesn’t work that way!!

  30. Ravana June 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    As someone who grew up around water I have to say I’m always surprised how many adults don’t know about riptides, secondary drowning and dry drowning. (Dry drowning is the creepiest, why aren’t they scaring people with that one?) We were taught as kids not to fight riptides, always tell mom if you inhaled or swallowed enough water to make you choke or throw up, and never to jump into water you couldn’t comfortably wade up to your knees in. We weren’t taught to fear the water and we went to the lake and pool without adults all the time (once we reached a certain level of swimming ability) because it was thought that teaching skills and commonsense rules was enough.

  31. Gina June 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    “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.”

    OK..maybe I’m crazy, but I think that I’d notice those symptoms without watching like a hawk… And I’d probably call the doctor.
    So basically just living normally can prevent this “sudden death”.

  32. Neil M. June 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    Sure, you taught your child to swim, escorted him to the beach, put him in a life jacket, hired a boat to remain at his side while in the water, had a doctor on hand and another in case the first had a heart attack, and kept the local ER on standby, but what did you do AFTER he was finished swimming? I’ll bet you just assumed all was well, eh? Well, you were wrong. You are now sorry instead of safe. You failed.

    Criminy…frightening the hell out of parents really is an industry, isn’t it?

  33. Beverly June 6, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Between husband’s and my parents, only 1 of them learned to swim. Their mothers had a fear of the water as an “unknown.” It seems we have now gone to the point that everyone knows water can be dangerous, so kids should be taught to swim, but now we need something else to fear!

  34. Gina June 6, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    MARIBEL…NO NO NO!!! The fence didn’t cause the problem. The HOLE was the problem.
    Pool fences save lives. That’s a fact. But they have to be checked for integrity and locked when nobody is in the pool.


  35. Nadine June 6, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    Funny how there are no news articles on secondary drowning before may 2014 in the google news machine. Maybe because it was already known under a different name: delayed drowning.

  36. Amy Chused June 6, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    My take away from the article was not “watch your kid like a hawk for 72 hours after swimming” but rather:

    1. If your kid has a near-drowning, and looks ok afterwards, then you should watch them with an increased concern for any abnormal behavior.

    2. If your kid has a near-drowning and doesn’t look ok afterwards, seek medical attention. Don’t blow it off.

    3. If your kid is having a hard time breathing, seek medical attention.

    4. If your kid is acting seriously ill in any way, either seek medical attention or watch them closely until they’re clearly better or you are driven to seek medical attention.

    All of those seem pretty reasonable to me.

  37. Donna June 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    “look out for unusual fatigue and lethargy, coughing, pale skin, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.”

    Hmmm, aren’t these pretty obvious symptoms that maybe something is wrong with your child? Do you really need to KNOW that your child went swimming to think that maybe you should see a medical professional if these things are happening?

  38. EricS June 6, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    It’s like “stupid people”. There will always be stupid people. You can’t wipe them from the face of the earth (although…lol). So you either hold a crusade against them, or you ignore them. Same goes for all these ridiculous and hyper vigilant articles, that breed fear in parents hearts and minds. Ignorant people will continue to post ignorant things. We can’t do anything about that. But we can stop fueling the fire. Ignore these articles, news, posts, tweets, and blogs. The more people use common sense, the less we encourage paranoid people. And whenever possible, rebuff them with facts. Which there is plenty of online.

  39. Backroads June 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    The symptoms described seem pretty obvious and noticeable. If my kid was acting like that for even a day, yeah, I’d take them in to get checked out. Watching them like a hawk every time they go for a dip sounds like overkill.

  40. KronWeld June 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    I didn’t read all the comments, but I came across this at Snopes:


  41. Christopher Byrne June 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    Trauma trauma everywhere. And not a stop to think.

    It’s amazing that White Lake in New Hampshire had any water left after what my brothers and I inhaled in an average summer.

    Who comes up with this stuff!

  42. Backroads June 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm #

    KronWeld, that Snopes article was both informative and level-headed.

  43. J- June 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    It is time for me to pull rank as a PhD Biomaterials Engineer with expertise in anatomy and physiology.

    Secondary drowning, as explained by EVERY media outlet is Crap.

    When most people think of “drowning” they think of a person’s lungs filling up with water from whatever body of water they were in (a pool, ocean, lake, etc.). That is a typical death by drowning, and is the overwhelming majority of drownings.

    Then there is “dry drowning” which is actually caused by the vocal chords spasming and pinching off the airway due to stimulation, and is technically called a Laryngospasm. This can be caused by the inhalation of water, or food, or anything else that gets caught in vocal chords and irritates them. There is no appreciable difference between dry drowning and choking from a philological standpoint.

    Secondary drowning is an immune response. Water, or really anything else, can get into the lungs and irritate them. The body responds to the foreign material by inflaming the tissue. Swelling in the body is caused by the accumulation of fluid in tissue. In the lungs, the fluid leaks into the lungs due to hydrostatic pressure and the lungs fill with the bodys’s own fluid. This is called Pulmonary edema, and the victim drowns. This is what kills people with Pheumonia, which is edema caused by bacteria or virus.

    Secondary drowning does not require going swimming, any irritant in the lungs can cause it, inhaling smoke, acidic fumes, etc. This is the primary cause of death in chemical gas exposure for industrial workers, also in chemical weapon attacks in WWI.

    Water is not a particularly bad irritant. A normal, healthy child, will most likely be fine after sucking down some water. The body is used to inhaling garbage: pollen, dust, smog, smoke, the nasty fart from the guy next to you in the elevator, etc. The body absorbs and/or coughs it back up.

    People with asthma are more susceptible, as their lungs are predisposed to inflammation. THIS SHOULD NOT STOP YOU FROM LETTING YOUR KIDS WITH ASTHMA GO SWIMMING.

    Edema is a slow process. It is not sudden death. The symptoms are pretty severe: chest pain, feeling like they can’t breathe, hacking up fluid. If you kid gets dunked in the pool and comes up spluttering, he/she is not going to drop dead 3 days later.

    Science lesson over, now I have to rant:

    People spreading info about Secondary Drowning like the backyard pool is some kind of child targeting time bomb are doing a disservice to the public. They pull this crap all the time. Every story you read about “pink slime” or “the horrible truths about what you’re eating” is total bull. Journalists get paid to be watched, and nothing gets people to watch more than scaring the crap out of them – “Everything you love is going to kill you in the most horrible way – details at 11:00” is the tag line run EVERY DAMN DAY.

    First these people are going to ruin summer, then they are going to kill all happiness everywhere. These are the same people that gripe about char on a burger because of the carcinogens. Eat the damn burger, if it worries you so much, finish it off with a glass of prune juice. If you are going to lecture my, get the hell out of my BBQ. I work in product liability and testing. I am not buying your crap.


  44. Warren June 6, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    No pool fences do not save lives. Never have never will. It is like any other form of preventative security, there is no way to prove that a fence around the pool saved any lives.
    Fences have contributed to drownings. As with any other thing placed off limits by adults, kids will find a way around it, or over it, or under it. And then get into serious trouble in an area no one worries about, because it is secure. Also depending on the fence, any incident can go unwitnessed.

    The only thing a fence does is give you the appearance of security, and appeases the city ordinance or insurance rules, depending on where you are.

  45. Ann in L.A. June 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    Here’s a similar overreaction: http://dailycaller.com/2014/06/06/school-sunscreen-ban-causes-10-year-old-girl-to-get-fried-on-field-trip/

    A San Antonio mother is furious because officials at her 10-year-old daughter’s elementary school banned sunscreen during a recent school field trip.

    Guess what happened.

    […] To make matters worse, mad mom Christy Riggs said skin cancer runs in her family — and her father who had it passed away recently.

    […] The district spokeswoman argued that allowing kids to handle sunscreen is a very risky thing to do.

    “They could possibly have an allergic reaction [or] they could ingest it. It’s really a dangerous situation,” Chancellor said.

    “We have to look at the safety of all of our students and we can’t allow children to share sunscreen,” she added.

  46. Mark June 6, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

    The world got a lot safer when I turned off the television. It got even safer when I blocked Facebook.

  47. Meagan June 6, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    My son inhaled some bath water when he was around 16 months I think… ended up with Pneumonia. It sucked- lethargic toddler struggling to breathe, mid-night ER visit, chest x-rays complete with a bunch of toddler – terrifying equipment.

    And you know what? It was also freaking obvious. I mean, whenever you decide to take your kid to the WRONG for breathing issues you worry a little that you’re overreacting (my son has asthma so this we’ve gone through the routine a few times) but he was just OBVIOUSLY in trouble this time. I’m no expert so maybe I’m wrong here, but I’m betting if a child is SLOWLY DROWNING TO DEATH it’s not going to be a case of a kid acting totally normal for three days then dropping dead with no warning because you weren’t watching his breathing closely enough.

    Respiratory distress in children is no joke… but it’s also not that difficult to pick up on.

    So sure, if your kid got a lung – full of water yesterday and has been struggling to breathe ever since, you should probably call someone. If they seem normal and healthy, they probably aren’t secretly drowning.

  48. Kimberly Herbert June 6, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    This is going to be harsh – but the child in 2nd article was 10 yo wearing floaties. If he was a non-swimmer (he was on spectrum that might have made learning to swim difficult) he should have been in a US Coast Guard approved life jacked. The floaties could have actually forced his. I have seen several children have their heads forced under water because those damnable floaties slipped to or below the elbow. They are also NOT made for an average sized 10 yo.

    My parents were told on 2 occasions to watch me for secondary drowning – because I had experienced near drowning. The 1st time I got flipped out of a float and slammed into the sandbar by a wave. Stunned for a moment then confused I then swam down instead of up. When Dad pulled me out, I was coughing up salt water I had swallowed/inhaled.

    The 2nd occasion due to a prank another child pulled I ended up penned under the water. Again when pulled out by the lifeguard, I was coughing up river water. I have to give the prankster credit. He realized his mistake quickly and shouted for help, while trying to up me up. I was in 6 inches of water in a lazy river, but stuck under 2 Dads who were on their tubes. They had a hard time standing up and kept falling back on top of me.

  49. Gina June 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    @Warren: I raised 5 kids in Scottsdale and Southern California in five homes with pools. The pool fence was always a 6-foot wrought-iron. It was ALWAYS locked with a combination lock. Not once did any of my kids breach any of the fences. And I was NEVER a helicopter parent.
    Living in Arizona, I hear about the worst of the worst drowning cases. I’ve been here for 20 years. In that time, 99.99% of the child drownings involved either an unfenced pool accessed by a child through an unlocked door or a dog door, a pool fence with a breach in its integrity or parents not paying attention to children in a yard during a party. I can remember TWO incidents in 20 years when nobody knew how the child entered the pool area.

  50. Emily June 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    >>Okay best to just cancel summer.<<

    In that case, we might as well cancel winter, spring, and fall too, because of the perils of frostbite, hay fever, leaf-pile suffocation, and of course, Halloween.

  51. Kim June 6, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    This is genuinely good advice and useful information being taken way out of context.

    CORRECT: If your kid has a “close call” on drowning they’re not necessarily ok just because they’re out of the water now. If they show these unusual symptoms afterwards you might want to get them checked out. It’s rare but it happens.

    INCORRECT: Going swimming will kill you up to three days later.

  52. hineata June 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    The above symptoms describe what happened to El Sicko every damn time she went swimming, until she learnt to keep her head out of the water. (BTW I found those rubber ring things with the seats in them work pretty well with susceptible toddlers/small kids, once their siblings learn not to have fun tipping them over in them :-)).

    They are not only signs of near-drowning – they pretty accurately describe what happens during ear infections and some upper-respiratory stuff, and yes, you would certainly be going to a doctor anyway, so hopefully they would pick up if there was anything worse.

    It might sound harsh, too, but frankly some kids are extremely fortunate to be alive at all, and are only so because of their good fortune in having been born during the last hundred years. There are multiple children (and adults, for that matter) walking among us who would have been dead prior to their second birthday a century ago. So personally I am going to enjoy each of my kids as long as I have them, and file secondary drowning away as one more thing I’m not going to pay any more attention to.

  53. Warren June 6, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    Well Gina, I will stand by my choice, that fences do not safe lives. Education saves lives.

    Education is a good thing. You should try it one day.

  54. SOA June 7, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    Ann in La: are you saying it was an overreaction to ban sunscreen and not let the kids carry it or an overreaction to the child getting sunburned and her mom being upset about it?

    I assure you it is not an overreaction to being upset about your kid being sunburned. I have a ginger child that burns badly in less than thirty minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen. Skin cancer is on the rise and is no laughing matter. I make sure I come to school on field day and stay with him so I can apply his sunscreen myself throughout the day. It is important to do so.

  55. hineata June 7, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    @Warren – have to agree with you on this one, minus the ‘education’ snark. Of the six preschool drownings that I remember being reported over summer here, at least three of them had nothing to do with pools – toddlers wandered off from their caregivers (in a few minutes, as toddlers do sometimes), and drowned in drains or lakes. Fences would have done little to prevent these deaths, as one cannot fence an entire country. I cannot remember details of the other three….

    Fences around pools would have done little to prevent these deaths. Fences around the toddlers themselves might have, but…..

    The otherwise reasonably sensible head of Water Safety New Zealand issued a ridiculous decree that parents needed to ‘watch their children at all times in or near water’. and ‘ no child should be drowning’. Hello? What gives? We are a temperate island nation completely surrounded two rather big puddles of water, the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. We also have dams, drains, buckets, baths, rivers, kitchen sinks, yada, yada, yada… Yep, of course watch them when they are intentionally in the sea or in the river or the pool. Otherwise, well…..

    He didn’t respond to my offer to send him all NZ toddlers to watch for the day, and see how long it took him to lose 1 of them.

  56. Gina June 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Warren: What was that? I thought we were having an intelligent debate. Clearly, that is beyond your capacity.
    Hineta: OK, I stand corrected. POOL FENCES prevent drowning IN POOLS. I thought that was self-explanatory 🙂

    #” Lack of Barriers: Barriers, such as pool fencing, prevent young children from gaining access to the pool area without caregivers’ awareness.11 A four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.” Thompson DC, Rivara FP. Pool fencing for preventing drowning in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000; 2.

  57. Papilio June 7, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    So how long before the kiddie safety industrial complex invents an anti-secondary drowning monitor?

  58. Amanda Matthews June 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    I do agree with Warren, that kids can find a way around a fence. If you’ve never heard of it happening that just means no one has drowned from doing it. And I’m sure your kids never did it, but they were probably educated to not (either that or you just never caught them).

    All the pool fences around here are wood, so you can’t see through them from any distance (only if you put your face up to the small spaces between the planks). So if someone went in there unnoticed, you wouldn’t see them until after you thought to look for them there. So if a toddler snuck out of their house and fell into a neighbor’s pool, if some teenagers climbed over the fence and started drowning, if someone’s dog dug under the fence and fell in – no one would notice. And if someone did notice, well then THEY have to figure out how to get in. If it’s a 6 foot locked fence and you have no idea where the hole is (or the hole is too small for you) and you physically can’t climb over it yourself, well then you just get to watch someone drown.

    And it’s easy to say “well someone is sure to notice if someone is gone long enough to drown.” Well sure, if you are purposely going near the water. But if you’re, say, next door and there is a fence around the pool? You aren’t going to watch your kids every minute of every day because there’s a pool in the vicinity. And maybe the neighbor kid forgot to lock the pool fence or maybe a feral dog dug a hole big enough for your kid to fit through.

    Education really would be a lot more safe than fences.

  59. LTMG June 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Absolutely the right thing to do is to legislate against the possibility of secondary drowning. Lifeguards, pool owners and pool manufacturers, operators of camp grounds next to lakes and oceans, etc. must be held liable for deaths due to secondary drowning. Nobody under the age of consent can be allowed to swim. Parents who allow their children under the age of consent to swim should be prosecuted for endangering their children. Children found swimming must be put into foster homes under the guidance of Child Protective Services. Military personnel under the age of consent caught participating in military training in or near water will be held in disciplinary barracks or brigs until they reach the age of consent. As an additional precaution, bathtubs must be redesigned to hold no more than 3 inches of water. Hot tubs must be banned. All bodies of water, including bathtubs and sinks, must have warning signs about the dangers of secondary drowning. E-mail your elected representatives today and declare your concern to your local law enforcement authorities!

  60. FreedomForKids June 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    I seen to remember Warren apologizing to Lenore for his behaviour on her blog, but he just went right back to it. Sometimes I have to sit and think for a moment before clicking on the Comments, to decide if I am up to reading Warren’s remarks today. He has really affected my enjoyment of this blog.

  61. SOA June 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

    Personally I would never want my own pool for many reasons one being I am not certain I could keep my kids out of it. Those alarms that go off when something over so many pounds goes into the pool are a good thing. I think they use infrared technology or something.

    We are members of a community private pool and we love it. They have lifeguards on duty at all times, kids to play with, they handle all up keep of the pool and it is a large Olympic sized pool. Its great. We go several times a week.

  62. Dan June 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    I Have worked with kids in Outdoor activities.
    This is a real problem and can be fatal,

    Thats not to say that this article is a massive over reaction.
    If you end up rescuing anyone from near drowning you should always keep them under observation for 3 days afterwards. but I’m talking about someone who probably would have drowned here if they had not been rescued.
    not somone who just happened to splutter a bit on pool water

  63. Gina June 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

    OK OK..I am not advocating fences INSTEAD of education/knowledge. Clearly, people need to watch young children around pools, know if their kids are in the pool, etc, etc….
    But please don’t tell me that fences do not save lives. THEY DO. To imply that people shouldn’t have pool fences because they are worthless is ignorant and frightening. All pools in homes where there are young children should be fenced with a locked gate (this is an important point) and checked for breaches from time to time. Will a child find a breach that somebody missed?..possibly…but will a two-year-old climb a six foot wrought-iron fence or figure out a combination lock?…doubtful. Do pool fences save EVERY life? No. But do bike helmets or seatbealts save every life? No, again. Should we not used them? See my point?

  64. Andy June 7, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    @Gina As for ordinary bike helmets, it seems like they are not saving much lives. Just saying. Seat belts seem to do better then helments.

  65. Lola June 7, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    As many people’ve said before,

    “…look out for unusual fatigue and lethargy, coughing, pale skin, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing.”

    I don’t think these are things you should “look for”, but rather things that jump to your face.

  66. SOA June 7, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    I think the policy is pool fences are a good thing but don’t take them as a 100% fool proof way to protect kids from pools. Also maybe install an alarm or a cover and supervise all children around pools more carefully than you would when pools are not nearby. Make sure kids know how they are to NEVER swim alone.

    I remember when we bought our third house and it had been empty for awhile while being put up for sale. It had a small pool in the backyard. And while we pulled up with the realtor to look at it a bunch of kids jumped out of the pool and took off running hopping over the fence. LOL. It was teenagers but still shows right there that yeah they don’t respect boundaries.

    We ended up buying the house and after that they did not come around again. The pool gate was locked and everything but that is not going to keep out teenagers determined to get in there. However I think it would have kept out a 4 year old.

  67. Emily June 7, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

    Okay, who else here remembers the Australian PSA about water safety? Here’s a link:


    Anyway, it’s basically a five-point safety plan sung as a catchy jingle:

    Fence your pool,
    Shut* the gate,
    Teach your kids to swim, it’s great!

    Supervise, watch your mates!
    And learn how to resuscitate!
    (And learn how to resuscitate!)

    *I’ve also heard the word “lock” substituted for “shut” before–it’s one of those songs that’s been passed on so many times, that some small inconsistencies are normal.

    Anyway, I really like this song, because it doesn’t say that locking pools, OR teaching kids to swim, OR forcing everyone to wear life jackets until some arbitrary age, is the answer–it says, “Kids Alive, Do The Five!”; because it’s a combination approach that’s the most effective; not to mention the fact that the operative word is “kids,” which implies that young people should take responsibility for learning about water safety, rather than parents/adults having the sole responsibility of protecting kids from the water. It also never says, “don’t swim,” because in Australia, an island continent where it’s scorching hot for so much of the year (the hottest day I experienced there was 42 C), and a lot of people live near the coast, or at least near swimming pools, “don’t swim” is about as realistic as “don’t breathe.”

  68. Emily June 7, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    Okay, here’s a better link:


    Anyway, let’s all stop arguing about semantics, and Do The Five.

  69. hineata June 7, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    @Gina, yes it was self-explanatory with regard to pools :-). I was just reminded of our water safety ‘prat’.So yep, maybe my stuff belonged on a different thread. I suppose I have three issues here though –

    1/ I think a fence can be self-defeating because it can cause the adult looking for a missing child to search other places rather than the pool for the kid first, because ‘they couldn’t be in there, it’s fenced’.
    2/I have, and this is my own personal crap no doubt but I think it has a certain logic to it, a fear of pool fences that consist of high solid, say wooden, walls…. because no one can see in behind them. Okay, if you want to fence a pool, let’s use glass or metal palings. Anything that people can see through to what could be happening in the pool.
    3/ I still think that it is better to teach kids from as early as possible that water is not for being around alone, rather than attempt to fence any of it off. Stay out of that bucket, bath,(for infants) pond, stream, dam, river, pool or whatever unless you are with someone else. I still follow that rule now for swimming in large bodies of water, and I’m a fairly good swimmer.

    Kids are still going to drown, though, regardless of our best efforts, because let’s face it, none of us are on our ‘best efforts’ all day every day, and kids wander off occasionally. I still think the water safety guy was being a total prat….

    But maybe/surely Arizona is drier/has access to fewer bodies of water than we do. It’s a desert, right?

  70. SOA June 7, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    hineata: right but it takes a toddler I think I read 100 times of being told something before they truly grasp it. So that means if you have no pool fence that you would never be able to let your child out of your sight for a second even for a long time till they got that 100 times of getting that okay I can’t go near the pool alone. I would rather have a secure fence because I think the chances of the kid getting through that in the few seconds I have my back turned is less than if there is no fence at all. Because parents WILL turn their backs. It is a certainty. No parent can be 100% vigilant 100% of the time.

    Babies and toddlers don’t get rules, it takes time for them to understand that and even after older kids get rules they still sometimes break them.

    We had high wooden fences around our pools for privacy. Not for safety. No one wants people staring at them while they swim.

  71. C.J. June 8, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    @ Gina, I just want to comment about the fences. Education is important but the problem is that you can’t guarantee other people have educated their kids. I have to agree with you that fences are important. We have a six foot padlocked privacy fence around our backyard. I don’t have a fence separating the pool from the rest of my own yard but I do everything I can to keep children out of my yard that aren’t invited in. I can’t keep an eye out for kids in the pool if I don’t know they are there.

  72. hineata June 8, 2014 at 12:25 am #

    @SOA – fair enough, everyone’s different. Personally I couldn’t give a hoot who sees me swimming – trust me, it’s their loss, LOL! And seriously I would prefer to be able to see and be seen, when it comes to water.

    Still, C-sections and childbirth generally do tend to loosen up some peoples’ body-image issues – they did mine, anyway :-).

  73. Donna June 8, 2014 at 6:09 am #

    I don’t believe that pools should be fenced off from the houses to which they belong – the homeowner should be able to see out their windows what is going on in their pool. I would never have a pool that I couldn’t see into.

    But pools should be fenced off from the rest of the neighborhood. Education is great, but you can’t reliably educate a toddler to stay out of a pool 3 houses away nor to swim. And your back will eventually be turned. The onus is on a POOL OWNER to keep the pool as safe as possible for the rest of the neighborhood – meaning that it is secured by a properly maintained fence on which any gate always remains closed. The onus should not be placed any everyone else in the neighborhood to have to be hyper-vigilent over their toddlers because someone else chooses to have a pool. If anyone should have to be hyper-vigilent, it should be the POOL OWNER, not the neighbors.

    Will it prevent EVERY pool drowning? No, but it is an improvement over not having a fence. Toddlers can’t climb fences, can’t open gates and are unlikely to find a hidden hole in a fence before being discovered as missing. They can dive within the split second that your back is turned into an unfenced pool or through an open gate.

    My stepbrother drowned in his neighbor’s pool when he was two. He woke up from a nap and got out of the house before anyone noticed. The pool was fenced, but the homeowner had left the gate open. Luckily he was discovered quickly and didn’t die. He did, however, suffer a lifetime of brain damage that could have been avoided by the 2 seconds it would have taken to shut the gate to the pool.

  74. DirtyHooker June 8, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    My daughter swallowed a little water in the community pool last week. She’s fine. I know, it was a close call. /snark

  75. derfel cadarn June 8, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    The act of having a life is a very dangerous business. To be free from all risk is NO life.

  76. Gina June 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Interesting..a few of you mentioned not being able to see into the pool because of the fence. I have never seen a pool that was fenced with wood or anything else you couldn’t see through. Perhaps that’s more common in other places. Here, we mostly see wrought-iron fences around pools. I agree that the pool should always be visible.
    Another thing I agree with is that having a pool fence doesn’t take the responsibility off the parents/adults. Of course you should know where your two-year-old is…but, like most of you said, nobody is 100% vigilant; it’s not human. The fence just adds another line of defense for the moment you turn away.
    And about not looking in the pool first because the fence means “they couldn’t be in there”, the education in Arizona always says “look in the pool first, even if it’s fenced”. So there you have education and fences working together.
    I think a place like Arizona, where pools are more common than not having them, water safety is a much larger issue than other places. We are DRILLED every summer all summer long. And still kids drown, almost always because there is no barrier around the pool.
    Hineata: actually, we have several bodies of water and several canals in the Phoenix area. And the heat does draw people to do dangerous things to cool off. Most of the drownings outside of pools is done by teens and adults, the majority of whom have been drinking.

  77. Donna June 8, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Gina – Where I’ve always lived (NJ, GA, CA, FL) backyard pool fences are generally wood. Neighborhood pool fences are usually iron, but I’ve never seen a backyard pool fenced that way. 6ft wood fence is standard.

    It is also fairly common for them to be fenced separately – as opposed to simply fencing in the whole backyard – with a 6ft wood fence so that even the homeowner can’t see into their own pool.

  78. Andy June 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    @Donna Is there any reason for that? It seems like a weird way to fence a pool. I would expect owner to want to see it, even if nobody is about to drown. First, pools look nice and second you probably want to see if it needs cleaning or other maintennance.

  79. Donna June 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Andy – I believe that pool fences are mandatory in most places. I don’t know if it is cost (fencing just the pool is cheaper than fencing the whole yard or if it is an attempt to keep kids out in families that have younger kids. I’ve never known anyone who had a pool installed; just people who have bought houses with pools already there, so I’ve never been privy to the actual fence decision-making process.

  80. Sandi June 8, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    I’m glad I am informed just in case one of my kids ever has the symptoms. I doubt they ever will, but why not be educated? Being familiar with the symptoms of diabetes saved my daughter’s life. I never would have thought I’d need that knowledge, but so glad I had it.

  81. Will June 9, 2014 at 1:43 am #

    Sandi . . . would you not have taken your child to the doctor if he/she had trouble breathing and (provided there was a diagnosis of asthma or other reparatory issue that you were used to treating) did not respond to treatment . . . *before* you read this article?

  82. Andy June 9, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    @Donna Is it mandatory to put there wooden fence? I never seen fenced personal pool, so I expected metal paling or glass to be used for fence. I doubt rules says “the fence must be non-transparent”.

  83. E June 9, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    My parents installed a lovely pool…AFTER their nest was empty (Thanks Mom & Dad). It was fenced in by 6 foot wooden (but lovely) fencing and not viewable from inside their home (even with different style fencing, it would not have been viewable). They had many small grandchildren and the location and fencing allowed the kids to come/go from the home and patio w/o access to the pool. The pool lock/latch was only reachable by someone 5 foot tall (or taller).

    There are lots of ways to enclose a pool and every backyard is different.

    I agree with those that say a fence is important in ADDITION to education. I’m not sure how anyone expects a preschooler to follow every rule from day 1.

    I put myself thru college working at pools and teaching swimming lessons and coaching swim teams. “Floaties” are the worst type of flotation device anyone can choose to use. They restrict actual swimming motion, they keep the kids upright (as opposed to swimming on their stomachs), they can slide off, and they create an unnatural transition to swimming w/o them as your arms are NOT you most buoyant part of your body.

    The YMCA I worked for did not allow them 30 years ago, and I just checked with my kid that guards at a Y now…they still don’t allow them.

  84. Richard June 9, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    Given the amount of advice available, sometimes it is hard to know what to make of it. Though there is almost certainly useful advice, to follow almost all advice can sometimes be difficult or impossible.

    For example, there are persons who have been diagnosed with life-threatening allergies (usually involving foods or insect stings) and such persons typically carry or have nearby epinephrine auto-injectors containing a medication which can reduce the effects of an allergic reaction while they seek medical help. In addition, persons so diagnosed must apply caution in situations such as deciding to eat food items that have been prepared by a third party (i.e. eating out) because an allergic reaction can require medical treatment even if epinephrine is administered.

    At the same time, not everyone has the same medical issues, and not everyone has severe allergies. Even so, a certain article mentioned that “Bee stings, food allergies, and medications can be deadly, even if you think you don’t have allergies.” The article mentioned carrying epinephrine in the case of persons known to have life-threatening allergies (which makes sense) but they also mentioned the method of being prepared for spontaneous allergic reactions for persons who don’t have severe allergies by carrying some maximum-strength antihistamine tablets in one’s wallet. This leads to the question as to whether virtually everyone should act as if an undiagnosed severe or even life-threatening allergic reaction could happen to them unexpectedly even if such a thing has never happened before. It would be interesting to know how many persons (who have not been diagnosed with severe allergies) have actually followed the advice of carrying antihistamine tablets. On another note, although life-threatening allergies sometimes do show up unexpectedly, it would be useful to consider whether this happens more often with younger children and the first or first few times they encounter an allergen compared to much older persons who have repeatedly encountered an allergen many times without noticeable problems.

    Overall, published advice on health and safety can be well-meant, but it can sometimes be hard to assess and it may be difficult or even unfeasible to follow lots of items of advice in combination.

  85. Amanda Matthews June 9, 2014 at 11:33 am #

    I think the reason for the wooden fences is privacy as well as to not make neighbors aware that there is a pool (i.e. teenagers looking around for a pool to climb the fence of when no one is home won’t see it.) – though that doesn’t work too well as neighbors hear the pump, splashing etc. when the pool is in use and everyone is pretty much aware of who has a pool.

    I use to live in Phoenix and yes things are very different elsewhere in regards to pools. Less safety is taught, and the type of people that own pools is often different.

    I do not agree that it should fall on the pool owner to hyper vigilant. If we put that responsibility on the pool owners they are going to be blamed when they go on vacation and their pool fence is broken or broken into. And if I am coming back to my pool in a few minutes I shouldn’t have to lock it and unlock it because others can’t be bothered to teach their kids to swim and stay off my property.

    If your toddler really can’t learn to swim and to stay away from the neighbor’s pool (I would say that a toddler can be taught both of these things, but if you truly believe they can not, or if they have some disability that makes it impossible) then maybe you need to put locks 5 foot high on your door and always lock them. You don’t get to decide MY lifestyle choices for your own peace of mind.

  86. Gina June 9, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Amanda: Of course not. It never occurred to me that a pool should be fenced by a family with no children. That is not the law in Arizona, nor should it be. I was only referring to homes with young children. And, by the way, I don’t think that should be a “law” either. I just wish that parents of young kids in a home with a pool would use their common sense and fence their pool! It’s really hard to live here and hear about babies drowning in their own yards because there was no fence or it was breached. If you’ve lived here, you know how often it happens. This has already been an awful summer and it’s only mid-June.

  87. SOA June 9, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    There is another good reason to fence in a pool besides children safety and privacy- animal safety as well. Dogs, cats, squirrels, frogs, turtles, etc also drown in pools. Even with a fence we still had to pull out squirrels and frogs quite a bit. thankfully no dogs or cats because the fence helped with that. It makes your pool nasty and gross and it is unpleasant to deal with.

  88. Stephanie June 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    This is real but rare- my dad worked in a ER in a tourist filled coastal area for 35 years. Out of the five kids he saw brought in, two died.

  89. Donna June 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Andy – Although all areas that I’ve ever lived required some kind of enclosure, the actual parameters of the required fencing vary greatly from city to city. There are usually specific requirements on height, openings, mesh-type, etc., but nothing that specifies wood (at least not locally). It likely just comes down to what is available in the local area, personal preference and price. My guess is that privacy and price makes wood the preferable choice for most pool owners. If I had a pool, I would have a wood fence for those very reasons.

  90. Donna June 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    “You don’t get to decide MY lifestyle choices for your own peace of mind.”

    So in return, YOU get to dictate MY lifestyle? You get to install a pool next door to me and then say “too bad, so sad” if my 2 year old doesn’t instantly learn how to swim the second that you choose to install a pool? I have to now double my supervision? I have to get my child swimming lessons when it suits YOUR schedule, not mine? I have to get my child swimming lessons when it suits YOUR budget, not mine?

    YOU chose to put in the pool. YOU have to live with the largest impact to your “lifestyle,” not those who had no choice in the matter. End of story.

    I don’t think that you need to be responsible for criminal acts – someone jumping your fence to swim in your pool, for example – but clearly, identifiable risks like small neighborhood children are absolutely your problem when you choose to install a potentially dangerous object in a neighborhood. I love how some are all “it’s all about building community” until the community wants you to do something reasonable, like put up a fence to help keep small neighborhood kids away from your pool, and then it becomes “MY lifestyle is what is important and, if your kid drowns because MY lifestyle needs a pool, oh well.”

  91. Warren June 9, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    No Donna we don’t get to dictate to you to get swimming lessons for your kids. But we do get to tell you to teach them to stay the hell off our property. Big difference.

    Most people prefer wood fences because they look a great deal better than chainlink. And wood fences are a great deal more difficult to climb than chainlink.

  92. Gina June 9, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Aside: I once knew a woman in a toddler playgroup who came in one day in tears. Her beloved elderly schnauzer had drowned in a small pond in her backyard. She had an 18 month old son. She was shocked when we (other parents) asked her if she wasn’t worried about the baby drowning…shouldn’t she fence the pond? You really have to wonder about people in situations like that.

  93. SOA June 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    Well this goes with my mantra regarding childproofing and free range. I find it is better to childproof and put in safety stuff so you CAN be free range and let your kids by themselves to play out of your sight and on their own. So to me, I think a pool with a good fence and locked gate and maybe an alarm is better than a pool out in the open with no safety things so that means all kids must be watching like hawks at all times to ensure they stay out of the pool. When you have the locked gate fence and alarm you can feel safe letting the kids out of your sight and only checking on them every so often because the chances of breaching a gate, locked fence and alarm are pretty slim compared to no fence and no alarm. I mean just do the stats on that one.

  94. Nic June 9, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Thanks for your sensible answer Powers.
    Is every warning to be “aware” a reason to discount it and assume it goes against the freerange movement. This is a real thing. People do drown this way, and if we were aware of the signs, we can take action if needed.

    And Maribel, your child should have been protected by the pool fence, not keeping it adequately maintained is no excuse. You can’t blame the safety requirements for that.

  95. Dave B June 10, 2014 at 5:47 am #

    Fearmongering aside, I didn’t even know pool fencing was a thing.

    At least here in Germany/Europe, i’ve never heard of this before.
    A quick trip to wikipedia informed me that it is an american and australian thing.
    And France seems to have joined the parade and Spain coming up to it to.

    I just don’t get the mentality.
    It is not like millions of people have accidents in un-fenced pools all the time.

  96. Warren June 10, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    Better yet Gina, fill the pond with cement. Cut down any trees that present tempting climbing, fence in or remove any large rocky areas that present tempting exploring. Oh and lets fence in all driveways, because we know how dangerous vehicles are.

    Or wait, we can teach or kids how to deal with all that.

    Hate to tell you this, but the elderly dog was probably dying anyway. A lot of animals when really sick will seek cool water, as they are running a fever, and need to cool down.

  97. Jill June 10, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    It’s true, secondary drowning is a terrible threat to our children. I lost a member of my own family to it. It happened this way: One summer morning in 1929, my grandfather, who was eight at the time, went swimming along with some other boys, down at the old swimming hole on his parents’ farm. (There were no lifeguards at the old swimming hole, and the water was brownish, due to cows walking around in it, and doing other things in it.) Grandpa seemed fine afterwards, but seventy-six years later, he died, obviously from secondary drowning, since there was nothing else wrong with him, other than liver cancer.

  98. Kimberly June 13, 2014 at 2:14 am #

    I’ve not seen the viral video, but, we had a drowning scare actually on the day that this article was written. My toddler was going after her sister, and I was on the shore gathering our stuff to head home, and she was deep in the lake, lost her footing and quietly went under. She was under for about 30 seconds before I got to her, and I hit her swiftly on the back, until she coughed out the water, she breathed out a “thank-you” to me, and wanted to go back into the water. I must admit that afterwards, the idea of secondary drowning was something in the back of my mind, but from what I remember it’s a risk if your kid is acting differently after getting out of the situation.

  99. Gina June 16, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    Warren..do you even HAVE kids? How many young toddlers do you know who would heed a warning to stay away from a pond?

    Kids drown FREQUENTLY in unfenced pools. Homes that have young kids should have all bodies of water fenced and locked.

    You are wrong.

    As for driveways…another one of those places that Arizonans seem to kill their own kids OFTEN: ALWAYS know where your young child is BEFORE you back out. Not look first, not trust the mirror or the back-up camera…Just know that another trusted adult has your child. It’s so easy and it takes a second.

    Maybe in your neck of the woods, babies and toddlers don’t drown or get run over. In Arizona, they do. A LOT. Easy to prevent…and, like seatbelts, bike helmets and carseats, fences are NOT non-free range.

  100. no rest for the weary June 17, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    What happens these days if someone backs over their kid in the driveway? Are these parents met with the same scorn (and criminal charges) as the ones who forget their kid in the backseat because they failed to leave the baby at the daycare and didn’t remember until hours later?

    It would seem that making either act criminal is ridiculous. If you accidentally kill your own child, it’s punishment enough.

  101. NC June 17, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    So should I be more concerned about secondary drowning or the brain parasite that can get sucked up a kid’s once while playing in fresh water?

  102. NC June 17, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    So should I be more concerned about secondary drowning or the brain parasite that can get sucked up a kid’s nose while playing in fresh water?

  103. Ellen June 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    No, you missed it on this one. I was a free range kid (to the max, they probably would make a movie about it today.) I am trying to range a kid who can move about the world independently and stay safe. But you got this one wrong. Be careful not to jump on every safety warning as part of the problem. In some instances, you won’t get support even from your supporters. Cases of secondary drowning are very underreported and lots of people who don’t have access to great pediatricians on call don’t get the attention they need in the hours after a near drowning. It’s like wearing a helmet and not getting in the car with the stranger. It’s a basic one, it’ sjust new–if that makes sense. This is something our Moms (and we were all year-round strong swimmers) actually did know, and it can happen pretty easily especially to little ones.