Hours after leaving a hotel pool in Kansas City, Mo., last weekend, 2-year-old Aliycea Sanders began to choke in her sleep, and her parents just happened to be nearby to notice water coming out of her nose and mouth. Because her mom had just seen a news segment on "secondary drowning," which can occur up to 24 hours after leaving water, she rushed her daughter to the hospital, where doctors saved her life and confirmed that she had in fact been drowning hours after leaving the pool, reports KCTV5.com.
Though it is rare, comprising just 1% to 2% of all drownings, secondary or "dry" drowning is not a myth, reports WebMD. It can happen if someone breathes in small amounts of water (often while struggling in the water) that then pool in the lungs—a condition called pulmonary edema. That fluid causes muscles in the airway to spasm, making breathing difficult and often causing extreme fatigue—a symptom to look out for, and one that was present in Aliycea's case. ABC6 reports that drowning is the No. 1 cause of death among children under age 5, and that poolside CPR is key to preventing brain damage. In the case of suspected dry drowning, parents should head to the ER immediately, where oxygen or ventilation can be used to treat the child. (Click to read about a toddler in Utah who survived being swept away in a river for 20 minutes.)