A new campaign aims to educate the public about the problem commonly known as dry, secondary or delayed drowning.
Not Out of the Water, designed by New York City advertising agency FCB Health, features dark and striking images of children in bed or on a couch made to look as if they are in the deep end of an empty swimming pool. The message: “Did you know your child can experience symptoms of drowning after leaving water?”
Print materials and a digital resource, from the campaign, notoutofthewater.com, encourage parents to seek medical care if their children show signs of having aspirated water. Such symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pain, persistent coughing, low energy, extreme sleepiness, and unusual or irritable behavior.
FCB and its partner on the project, Colin’s Hope, seek to create awareness of this problem. But the campaign simultaneously discourages the terms dry, secondary or delayed drowning, which are not recognized by medical professionals.
“The harm is that these terms create a misinformed public and provide medically inaccurate information for parents,” said Dr. Justin Sempsrott, executive director of Lifeguards Without Borders and an emergency physician who advised FCB on the campaign.
Media reports of “dry drownings” caused a sensation in recent years, causing parents to reconsider trips to the pool.
Not Out of the Water intends to set the record straight, not only to spur action when necessary, but also to keep the risk in perspective. Drowning, it informs us, is a process. It begins with immersion or submersion in water, but its effects can linger after getting out of the pool.
The organizations also hope to prepare parents for the possibility of misdiagnosis. “Numerous medical [problems], from punctured lung to pneumonia to infections of the heart, are misattributed to ‘dry, secondary or delayed’ drowning,” Sempsrott said.
Furthermore, he said, the campaign seeks to show that drowning does not always equal death: “My hope is to educate the public on when to seek additional care and when to be re-assured.”