Baby Swallowed Bath Water: How alarming is this?

It is never easy to bath an active baby particularly when it is your firstborn. No matter how hard you keep an eye on her, little accidents can happen. Look away for a second, the chance of finding your child head down into the tub filled with water is possible. Is it dangerous when a baby swallowed bathwater?

It could be alarming to know that your baby just gulped some bath water. What do you need to do when this happens?

Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning Explained

I bet you have read many dry drowning articles circulating in the media. I get you; the controversy hit me too. The truth is, the term dry drowning caught the medical team in surprise as well. However, the name is rapidly spreading out and giving moms a new reason to fret and worry about their kids.

To explain, dry drowning describes a condition wherein drowning victims do not have water found in their lungs during the autopsy. This occurs when the water is very cold and abruptly enters the airway. This usually happens when you jump into the water with mouth open. Therefore, instead of your belly, the water rushes through your vocal cords.

The situation makes the vocal cords to shut off. This naturally happens to protect your lungs but at the same time closes the airways. The fact is, in this so-called dry drowning, water cannot go inside the lungs, but the child cannot breathe as well. You can find 10-20% of drowning circumstances are like this and may closely connect to the medical term Laryngospasm.  

With dry drowning, symptoms are not visible since it can happen, so fast victims do not have time to recover. However, dry drowning is very rare. Some also use dry drowning in association with secondary drowning wherein children are at risk to die by inhaling a small amount of water. Nevertheless, you can associate this condition to pneumonitis instead.

The latter is what makes moms in panic. Pneumonitis happens when the surfactant lining of the lungs disrupts when kids inhale water. Though very rare, being so can trigger swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs. This means air can pass through the lungs when your baby inhales but finds it hard to exhale because the fluid is hindering the way.  

Hence, how would you know that you do not need to worry when your baby swallowed bathwater?

Dry Drowning and Secondary Drowning Explained

Signs of Pneumonitis

There is no need to be anxious about your child in danger. When your baby swallowed bath water, you would know if she has pneumonitis by watching out for these signs. The manifestation of the symptoms is obvious that it is hard for you not to notice. Remember that the first sign may appear a few hours after your baby swallowed or breathe in water.

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle or joint pains
  • A headache
  • A dry cough
  • Tiredness
  • Wheezing
  • Finding it hard to catch her breath
  • Spitting and Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Change of behavior

What do you need to do when your baby swallowed bathwater?

Do not be muddled by what dry drowning have imposed in the media. Stay focused on taking care of your baby. You know already the signs of probable danger of pneumonitis, and I tell you that it is a very rare occurrence. However, when your baby swallowed bathwater, here is what you need to do.

  • Watch your baby closely and look for any sign of Pneumonitis (or secondary drowning.)
  • If you see any symptoms, call your pediatrician immediately. However, coughing alone is not a valid sign of second drowning. At least a few of the symptoms would be a reason to feel apprehension. Take note that coughing that takes longer than several minutes after swallowing bathwater needs medical evaluation.
  • After 30 minutes and the doctor is still not around, seek urgent medical care.


I hope that I have given the information that you desperately need. It is an advantage if you are a pro-active mom since it makes your family safer and secure. Therefore, learning the symptoms and reacting to certain situations is beneficial when you have a child. The next time your baby swallowed bathwater, you already know what to do.

Consider teaching your kids how to swim at an early stage to prevent drastic situations to happen. Yet, it is of utmost importance for you to stay close to your babies when bathing or swimming time to prevent dry drowning and secondary drowning from occurring. Lastly, take note of the facts and information I have shared to you. If you have more questions, feel free to drop a comment and let us have a chat.

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Sarah Palmer
Hi! I'm Sarah. My husband and I have a beautiful little girl; plus we’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of Baby #2, so this is a very exciting time for us. Throughout this amazing journey called Parenthood, I’ve learned so much and love sharing my experiences with other parents at I'd love to share my discoveries with you too!
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