To see Shallow Water Blackout Prevention featured on America Now News with Leeza Gibbons click here!
To see Rhonda Milner’s interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta concerning Shallow Water Blackout click here!
READ BELOW TO HELP PREVENT THESE SENSELESS DEATHS OF UNINTENTIONAL SUICIDE:
WHO: It can affect anyone that is breath-holding, even the physically fit swimmer. It is especially seen in competitive swimmers, Navy SEALs, snorkelers, spear fishermen or anyone who free-dives. Blackouts cut across the spectrum of freediver training affecting all levels. No one is protected from succumbing to an underwater blackout.
WHAT: Shallow Water Blackout typically occurs because of low carbon dioxide (CO2) and low oxygen (O2). Unconsciousness occurs when O2 levels in a swimmer are too low. What triggers us to breathe to get O2 is HIGH CO2 not low O2 as one might think. Hyperventilation done before breath-holding lowers the CO2 abnormally so one can hold their breath longer; however, one may experience Shallow Water Blackout even without hyperventilation before breath-holding. The primary cause of SWB is lack of O2 reaching the brain. The CO2 levels may be high as in extreme exertion or low as in hyperventilation. In each case SWB happens. However with low CO2 levels, our bodies are robbed of their built-in mechanism to protect us and tell us to breathe before unconsciousness happens. One basically “blacks out” in the water. For some, their lungs will take on water leading to drowning while others simply suffocate or die of other causes brought on by the breath-holding. Death can be a result of the prolonged breath-holding even if not from so called “Shallow Water Blackout.”
WHEN: Frequently, Shallow Water Blackout occurs WITHOUT ANY WARNING of its onset. In fact, because of the hypoxia and detached mental state one can feel euphoric and empowered to continue breath-holding. Unlike regular drowning where there can be 6-8 minutes before brain damage and death, there is ONLY about 2 ½ minutes before BRAIN DAMAGE then DEATH with SWB because the brain has already been oxygen deprived coupled with warm water as in swimming pools, hastening brain death.
WHERE: Shallow Water Blackout can occur in any pool, lake, ocean or body of water when breath-holding, regardless of water depth. Even if lifeguards are on duty there is still a great risk because it is hard to detect from above the water.
WHY: Shallow Water Blackout occurs because of the LACK OF EDUCATION and understanding of the dangers of breath-holding. It also occurs because of the lack of safety training for swimmers, free divers, snorkelers, and spear fishermen. The breath-holders do not understand how to prevent Shallow Water Blackout or how to survive if it happens to them. Unfortunately, training does not inoculate one against SWB. All too often trained freedivers succumb.
* Please note: The condition of the lungs after underwater blackout may be wet (from drowning) or dry (from spasm of the larynx.) Also, breath-holding may stimulate genetic triggers leading to various causes of death.
THE DANGERS OF BREATH-HOLDING IN POOLS
People who hold their breath while swimming or practicing breath-holding underwater in pools are at risk of “passing out” due to lack of oxygen. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as shallow water blackout (SWB) and it is the result of a SEVERE LACK OF OXYGEN TO THE BRAIN.
SWB may be the leading cause of swimmer death. The number of deaths that can be attributed to SWB is not fully known, as these deaths are often misdiagnosed as traditional drowning. When coroners rule a SWB death as “drowning” only, it masks the real problem: hyperventilation combined with competitive, repetitive breath-holding. For this reason, SWB is not well known or understood by many of those who are most at risk.
When oxygen levels fall to critical levels, blackout is instantaneous and frequently occurs without warning. Most of the time, underwater swimmers have no clue they are about to be rendered unconscious and that they will be vulnerable to death within minutes.
Swimmers who hyperventilate to excess before breath-holding are in particular danger. Hyperventilation is simply an increase in the amount of air moving in and out of the lungs. It may be due to rapid, shallow breathing, but deep slow breathing can also result in hyperventilation. Paradoxically, hyperventilation does not increase the amount of oxygen in the body, but it does decrease the amount of circulating carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide levels in the blood are primarily responsible for the swimmer’s desire to breathe. When the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is driven to artificially low levels as a result of hyperventilation, the desire to breathe is diminished. This artificial method of fooling the body into thinking it does not need oxygen is deadly, as it lures the breath-holder into believing he can hold his breath longer than he safely can.