Hydrophobia & Secondary Drowning – Caution: Dads and some swim coaches.

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Hydrophobia – From some dads and some swim coaches.


A friend of mine who runs a successful Digital Marketing business in Chennai has this fear, the fear of water or scientifically known as “Hydrophobia”. In my friend’s case it is so acute that he will not sit on a boat or catamaran. He even confessed to me about an incident that took place years ago, on a trip to Ooty when he and his college mates were on a boat. He told me that while his college mates were having fun on the boat ride, no one knew that he was actually sweating inside his clothes. You are probably wondering how he got that fear of the water, correct? Read on…

A bad idea

His father did something to him that several parents are unknowingly doing to their precious little kids. In the case of my friend, as a small child, his father would literally throw him into a well in the village. When the child would cry out petrified and somehow make it to the rim of the well, his father would catch hold of him and throw him back again. And this would happen again and again. Imagine the torture! Little did the father know that In the child’s brain the dark fear of water was already being ingrained.

Even some swim coaches don’t know better.

I was witness to a similar incident in a pool in Pondicherry during a Summer Swimming Camp. In the presence of a quite a large number of people the coach actually struck (yes, hit the child) and threw her into the deep of the pool, while her parents were watching. They were under the impression that the coach was doing the right thing. The little girl was wailing in fear. I really wanted to walk up to the parents and tell them about my hydrophobic friend but decided not to when I was overwhelming convinced that they will not buy my story.

Choose your swimming coach/camps carefully. Just a glorious track record is not enough.


“Do not force a child into getting into the water, there is a way to reassure the child and get his/her consent to enter the water and to learn swimming. Patience is the key”  Says Showkath Jamal

Showkath of Bay of Life surf school tells me this fear could lead to “secondary drowning” or even “dry drowning”. In the case of dry drowning, water never reaches the lungs. Instead, breathing in water causes a child’s vocal cords to spasm and close up. That shuts off his airways, making it hard to breathe. In the case of “secondary drowning”  if water gets into the lungs, it can irritate the lungs’ lining and fluid can build up, causing a condition called pulmonary edema. In both cases the symptoms are, coughing, chest pain, trouble breathing and extreme fatigue and both conditions are life threatening.


Instead of instilling fear why not allow children to take to the sea or the swimming pool like fish to the water. It is possible with the right kind of training, one that Bay of Life’s Certified Instructors impart to teach swimming in the sea, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding.