The Initial Response Team, the IRT, was tasked to rescue a 66 year old male who was ‘struggling’ in the sea and unable to reach safety. The gentleman had been knocked over by the surf on to the steep shelving pebbles at Town Beach, Lyme Regis. He was brought to safety and checked over initially by RNLI Lifeguards and later by paramedics before being allowed to return to his holiday accommodation.
The Coastguard treat these matters very seriously and warn casualties about the effects of secondary or dry drowning. Secondary drowning is a condition where water, or other fluids, has entered the lungs but the person may be conscious and not fully aware of what has occurred. This sometimes happens with a near drowning victim. Prior to being pulled out of the water the casualty inhales fluid into their lungs.
The general warning signs for secondary drowning include: coughing; trouble breathing; pain in the lungs or chest especially when taking a deep breath; and a feeling of swallowing or inhaling water.
It is vital that this person get medical attention as quickly as possible. An X ray is required to accurately diagnose. As the name implies, the person can drown even 72 hours later as the fluid in the lungs impairs the breathing process. Water also will damage the inside surface of the lung, collapse the alveoli and cause a hardening of the lungs which will reduce the ability to exchange air.