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Summer Safety – No Breath Holding Games!

In a recent review of summer safety tips, I was surprised and interested to read that there have been a number of drownings in recent years associated with intentional breath holding.  According to data published by the Centers for Disease Control*, at least 16 people have drowned or nearly drowned in the last few years after intentional breath holding in swimming pools or designated outdoor swimming areas.  It seems that all of these cases involved young, healthy people who were either engaged in breath holding games, or else training for events such as fitness competitions.  In nearly every case, the subjects performed some combination of hyperventilation, prolonged underwater breath holding, and repeated efforts to breath hold. 

The CDC has defined these activities as Dangerous Underwater Breath Holding Behaviors (DUBBs), and recommends more public education about the hazards posed by such activity.  The usual mechanism in our brains that makes us breathe (or want to) is based on rising carbon dioxide levels when we aren’t breathing.  This mechanism can be ‘fooled’ by hyperventilating – blowing off all of the carbon dioxide – before going underwater.  Unfortunately, it’s the oxygen level in our blood that keeps us conscious, and repeated breath holding can drop the oxygen levels to the point that causes passing out.  When this happens underwater, a drowning event is a real possibility.  Brain chemistry aside, the take-home message here is simple:  don’t engage in DUBBs, always swim with a buddy or where there are trained lifeguards, and know your limits.  Have fun out there everyone!




Photo credit: Pixabay



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