CDC's Insight into Risky Breath-Holding Behavior

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CDC's Insight into Risky Breath-Holding Behavior

The following information is sourced from an NBC News article discussing this phenomenon. In a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on death, disease, and accidents, New York researcher Amanda Levy and her colleagues shed light on the concerning phenomenon known as “dangerous underwater breath-holding behavior” or DUBB for short. While some may dismiss it as foolish, the cases examined by Levy’s team revealed a more serious side, involving individuals who were often well-trained but unaware of the peril they faced.
The study documented 16 cases, with four resulting in drowning. These tragic incidents primarily affected individuals aged 17-22 years, recognized as advanced or expert swimmers, who engaged in intentional hyperventilation. Levy’s team emphasized that DUBB-related drownings can transpire at any water depth and be caused by various contributing factors.
The underlying process is well-known and widely understood. Before submerging, engaging in hyperventilation or breath-holding lowers the levels of carbon dioxide in the body, temporarily suppressing the brain’s breathing reflex. However, the decrease in arterial blood oxygen pressure can result in a blackout, causing the swimmer to lose consciousness due to inadequate oxygen supply.

One case involved young men undergoing advanced military fitness training. After an intense exercise routine, they proceeded to engage in the practice of intentional hyperventilation and breath control. Minutes later, both swimmers were found unconscious underwater. Similarly, a teenager with no preexisting health conditions and aspirations of joining the U.S. Navy Seals tragically lost his life while training. He repeatedly submerged himself for prolonged periods until he was discovered unconscious, and was unable to be resuscitated. Numerous incidents similar to the ones mentioned above involve individuals participating in breath-holding games without realizing the potential risk of losing consciousness and even their lives.

Levy’s team suggests that such incidents may be more prevalent than commonly believed. Research indicates that approximately half of all drowning cases lack witnesses, and individuals who engage in underwater breath-holding may do so regularly. It is crucial to raise awareness about the dangers associated with underwater breath holding behavior.

Click here to read the full article and the additional information provided by the NBC team.

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