Avoid Prolonged Breath-Holding

Kids underwater

The Swimming Pool and Spa Program recommends avoiding prolonged underwater breath-holding. 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).

SWB is a medical term for a faint brought on by a lack of oxygen and carbon dioxide while swimming. SWB does not only occur in shallow water, it can happen in any depth of water.

To Avoid Shallow Water Blackout:

  • Do not practice prolonged breath-holding or have contests to see who can hold their breath the longest underwater or swim further underwater.
  • Repetitive breath-holding and/or hyperventilation increases risk of SWB.
  • SWB is difficult to detect from above the water. Lifeguards, parents or caregivers likely would not notice shallow water blackout as it occurs.
  • Never swim alone.
  • For more information, please visit Shallow Water Blackout Prevention.