Drowning, Dry Drowning, Secondary Drowning, & Near Drowning

The Grom Life is an independent publisher. You will not find paid product promotions or sponsored content on this site. You will find affiliate links which means we may earn a commission if you purchase through these links.

Drowning is suffocation caused by fluid immersion.

It kills thousands of people a year and while the risk is relatively low for the average person, it’s much higher for surfers.

As a keen surfer, you owe it to yourself—and your fellow surfers—to learn all about drowning, dry drowning, and near drowning, as well as the methods that can save a drowning victim’s life.

What You Need to Know About Drowning

Most people know that drowning is a very serious issue, but surprisingly few people know how dangerous it is and how many lives it claims.

What Happens When You Drown?

When your lungs fill with water, the throat closes to protect against fluid inhalation and this prevents oxygen from getting into your lungs.

It’s often a quiet and quick process, and a drowning victim rarely flails around or shouts and screams like you often see in films.

How Many People Drown A Year?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 235,000 people die every year from drowning, with fewer than 4,000 of these deaths occurring in the United States.

However, this is thought to be a very conservative estimate as many drowning deaths go unrecorded.

After all, people don’t drown in hospital. They drown in the open ocean, in rivers, and in lakes.

They die as a result of floods and sunken ships, and many of these deaths aren’t reported.

How Much Water Does It Take To Drown?

It’s possible to drown in just a couple of inches of water, and young children are the most at-risk of drowning in such small amounts of water.

How Long Does It Take To Drown?

It is possible to drown in under 60 seconds.

Young children can drown in less than half that time.

Fatal Drowning Incidents by Age, Gender, and Ethnicity

Along with unintentional overdose and car accidents, drowning is one of the most common accident deaths in the world.

Drowning deaths occur in the home (bathtub), in the yard (swimming pools, hot tubs, paddling pools), and away from the home (rivers, lakes, the ocean), and the risks are much higher in children.

Statistically, males are twice as likely to drown as females and according to the CDC, black children are significantly more likely to drown in public pools, white children are more likely to drown in residential pools, and Native Americans have the highest rates of natural water drowning.

Where Do Most Drowning Deaths Occur?

On the whole, you are much more likely to drown in a residential swimming pool than anywhere else.

These pools don’t have lifeguards and it takes just one drunken and reckless incident with an adult or one unsupervised incident with a child for disaster to strike.

Many deaths occur in children and adults with no swimming skills, so it is important to teach your kids how to swim and to make sure those lessons are conducted by professionals in a safe environment.

Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning

Water doesn’t need to reach the lungs for drowning symptoms to occur, as there is also a condition known as “dry drowning”.

What Is Dry Drowning?

Dry drowning occurs as a result of something known as a laryngospasm.

It’s a spasm of the vocal cords that closes the windpipe and makes it difficult to breathe.

What Is Secondary Drowning?

Secondary drowning is just another name for dry drowning.

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Drowning

The symptoms of dry drowning can be mild or severe, ranging from difficulty breathing to completely restricted airwaves. Some of the warning signs of dry drowning include:

  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Difficulty Speaking
  • Chest Pains
  • Low Energy After Being in the Water
  • Coughing

If you notice any of these symptoms, dial 911 immediately.

Try to keep calm in the meantime as it will help the muscles in your throat to relax.

Can you Drown on Dry Land?

It is possible to drown on dry land as a result of a laryngospasm.

However, this will only occur in the hours after someone is exposed to water.

To prevent such an issue, practice good water safety and watch out for the warning signs.

How Common Is Secondary Drowning?

Secondary drowning (AKA dry drowning) accounts for a very small number of drowning cases each year.

It’s rare, and deaths from dry drowning are even rarer.

How Do Doctors Treat Secondary Drowning?

Prevention is the best cure. Practice good water safety and watch over any young children or unsupervised children in the water.

Pay attention to delayed symptoms such as difficulty breathing and avoid submersion and unnecessary risks.

Doctors may treat dry drowning by administering oxygen.

How Long Does Secondary Drowning Take?

Dry drowning can occur anywhere from a few minutes to several days after being exposed to water.

Does Secondary Drowning Cause Fever?

The most common dry drowning symptoms are difficulty breathing, fatigue, and coughing.

However, fever can also occur.

You should seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms after a water incident.

What Does a Secondary Drowning Cough Sound Like?

A secondary drowning cough is usually persistent and may be accompanied by symptoms such as difficulty speaking and lethargy.

Near Drowning

When you think of drowning, you probably think of a fatal event.

But most drowning incidents don’t result in death and the vast majority are survived, with many referred to as “near drowning”.

What Is Near Drowning?

Near drowning means that an individual has been underwater and has experienced a drowning incident but has survived.

They may have experienced submersion injuries resulting from water inhalation, and medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.

How To Treat Near Drowning

If someone is drowning and you rescue them, they may need medical intervention.

Seek help and if you know how to perform CPR, now is the time to put your skills to the test.

You should also remove their wet clothes and wrap them in warm and dry blankets to prevent hyperthermia.

It’s important to stabilize their head and neck, as well.


CPR is an emergency procedure that is often performed on an individual when their heart stops beating or they are no longer breathing.

What Does CPR Stand For?

CPR stands for “cardiopulmonary resuscitation”.

The word “cardiopulmonary” comes from the Greek words for “heart” and “lungs” while “resuscitation” is the act of reviving.

What is CPR?

CPR is a lifesaving procedure performed in an emergency.

It is commonly used to revive individuals after a heart attack but can also be used following a drowning incident.

When was CPR Invented?

CPR was first developed in 1960. However, its history is a little more complicated than that.

Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation methods have been in use since the middle of the 18th century and chest compressions were recognized for their effectiveness in the late 1800s.

How to do CPR?

The Red Cross has a very helpful guide on CPR.

If you really want to learn CPR, however, you should look for a practical class that will allow you to get hands-on with this emergency procedure.

These classes are provided by the American Red Cross and begin with online lessons before moving onto a practical portion.

How Long Does CPR Certification Last?

CPR Certification with the American Red Cross lasts for two years.

The Red Cross trains 9 million people a year in life-saving skills and as a surfer, lifeguard, and anyone who spends a lot of time in and near the water, it’s an important procedure to learn.

FAQs About Drowning and Surfing

Do you still have some questions about drowning, surfing, CPR, and other important information?

If so, the following FAQs can help.

Is It Easy To Drown While Surfing?

There are many ways that you could drown while surfing.

You could become trapped on the reef or under a wave, for instance.

You can also be knocked unconscious, and this is actually how numerous famous surfers have died over the years.

Do Surfers Often Drown?

When surfers die, it’s usually from drowning.

However, these deaths are rare, and the odds of dying on the waves are low.

How Do You Stop Drowning When Surfing?

There are a few ways you can stay safe on the waves.

The first is to always take a friend with you.

That way, if you get into trouble, they can help you and prevent unintentional drowning.

Secondly, you should take a flotation device if you are an inexperienced surfer and swimmer.

Novices should also stay away from big waves and harsh conditions.

Has Anyone Ever Drowned Surfing?

Some of the most famous surfers to have drowned doing the thing they love include Mark Foo, Sion Milosky, and Donny Solomon.

What Are Inflatable Surf Vests?

An inflatable surf vest is a type of personal flotation device (PFD) often used by big wave surfers.

It’s worn over a wetsuit and also by itself, and it’s a great way of improving your water safety and reducing the risk of drowning.