Preventing Shallow Water Blackout

As pool service professionals, one of our biggest challenges is helping a homeowner maintain the highest level of cleanliness and safety possible for their pool. With this in mind, we want to touch on drowning and how easy it is for a child or adult to drown as a result of shallow water blackout.

What is SWB?


Shallow water blackout is also called hypoxic blackout. It happens when fainting or loss of consciousness occurs due to lack of oxygen. Blackouts can be as a result of swimming while holding their breath for too long or hyperventilating. Games involving running or horseplay, combined with swimming involving holding one's breath, can cause SWB. Games involving who can swim underwater the longest, hold their breath the longest, and other breath games can also cause SWB.

The mechanics

Once a body has a buildup of carbon dioxide, especially when massive amounts of energy are being expended, oxygen deprivation happens quickly. The swimmer will experience a brief, euphoric moment (like an athlete's high) and then pass out. It happens so fast; even professional swimmers aren't aware of what is happening.

The tragedy

The resulting blackout can drown a person fast, in less than half a minute. To give you an example of how quickly a person can sink, think of the 'twenty seconds on the clock' offered during the old Family Feud game. If you notice the blacked out swimmer immediately and can get into the water and to the victim in ten seconds, he will live. But if it takes you ten seconds to notice he didn't come up for air, then another ten seconds to get to him and start CPR, it may be too late.

Photo by Aquatics International, Nov/Dec 2011

Photo by Aquatics International, Nov/Dec 2011

When a person drowns in normal circumstances, they have about five minutes before brain damage occurs. But because the shallow water blackout victim is already oxygen-deprived, their time is deeply discounted, down to maybe half the time, or two and a half minutes.

What you can do

Learning CPR is an excellent way to build emergency skills. You can take the online course for free here. You can also teach your children not to play breath games in the pool. Don't allow them to swim right after they've played running or other games which make them hyperventilate (pant). 

You can also keep a sharp eye on swimmers. Even older kids who know how to swim should never swim alone. 

We can provide the cleaning and service to make your pool a pristine refuge of fun. It will leave you free to make your pool safe for children and adults alike. Together, we can make your pool the best place it can be.

If you need pool maintenance for your Phoenix, Arizona pool or spa, call us here at Serenity Pools. Our services include new installation set-up, professional maintenance of pools and spas, water features, and fountains. Call today! 480-370-0579.