Shallow Water Blackout

- the silent killer

In simple terms Shallow Water Blackout (SWB) is when a swimmer suddenly faints underwater. No exact figures are available but some sources attribute over 50% of all drownings to SWB, which makes it the single most common cause of death amongst children

  • Swimming ability is no protection against Shallow Water Blackout; it can and does happen to the most experienced of swimmers, regardless of their health or age, in pools and/or in open water
  • SWB occurs when low levels of Carbon Dioxide (CO²) in the body, combined with low levels of Oxygen, causes a swimmer to faint
  • If the swimmer is not rescued immediately they will drown
  • SWB can be caused by taking several deep breaths (Hyperventilation) before, for example, swimming a length underwater or 'trying to beat-your-own-record' for distance swum underwater
  • Hyperventilation artificially lowers the body's CO² levels
  • It is HIGH levels of CO² in the body that triggers the need to breathe; not LOW levels of Oxygen
  • With artificially low levels of CO² the 'BREATHE NOW!' reflex is suppressed and unconsciousness occurs instantly when the swimmer's Oxygen level falls below a certain point
  • SWB can occur without warning, to any swimmer, regardless of their ability or level of experience
  • Many victims are strong, fit swimmers who have not previously experienced this problem before
  • Therefore; educate everyone who uses your pool, especially kids, about the dangers of Hyperventilating
  • Don't let them compete at holding their breath, or seeing who can swim furthest underwater

 

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Ken Walker - MyPoolGuru©