Snorkeling is a popular recreational activity for people of all ages. For some who live in coastal regions, it is a regular activity, but for others, it is something they only participate in when on holiday at the seaside. Given that snorkeling is an activity that generally is done in the sea, are there dangers associated with the activity? Can you drown while out snorkeling?
Snorkeling is an activity that is done in the water and most often in the sea. As with most recreational water activities, there is always the potential for accidents to happen and for drowning to occur. To snorkel safely and minimize the risk of drowning, you should always follow safety protocols.
People who go to the sea for a holiday, or people who live by the sea, generally enjoy the sea and the activities in the sea as one of the main attractions for these locations.
Any activity in the water is not without its risks, and snorkeling is no different. Given that drowning is a possibility when snorkeling, what can you do to snorkel safely?
Is Drowning A Possibility When Snorkeling?
Snorkeling holds a risk of drowning, as well as other dangers that are inherent in any activity that is done in the water. Because snorkeling is a holiday activity, many people decide to try it out as a fun holiday experience. This is a contributing factor to the frequency of drownings that are reported as a result of snorkeling.
Most of the accidents that are reported from snorkeling activities are reported from popular coastal or island holiday destinations. While this may be because of more people in these locations participating in snorkeling, it also indicates other possibilities for the cause of the accidents.
If we examine some of the circumstances around drownings while snorkeling, it may give us some things to watch out for and take notice of as danger signs.
- Many snorkeling-related drownings happen in less than 3-feet of water. This shows that you don’t have to be in deep water to get into trouble. In some cases, people have difficulty standing up because of the fins on their feet, and in other cases, there were other contributing factors. The takeaway from this is not to become blasé just because you are in shallow water.
- Unfamiliar physical exertion. Many people who visit these coastal holiday destinations are not in the greatest physical shape. Swimming with fins, swimming in the water for a long time can all result in fatigue. If a snorkeler becomes fatigued, it is a recipe for disaster. They could be too far from the boat or shore to reach safety, cramp could set in, or they may not be able to swim against currents that take them further out.
- Alcohol consumption. Holidaymakers like to indulge in a drink or two or more at the beach. While this may seem to be relaxing, if you enter the water when you are under the influence, it could be the worst mistake of your life. Some holiday destinations report that more than 14% of drowning victims have alcohol in their systems. Alcohol combined with sun exposure can lead to dehydration which can lead to cramps, and it can simply result in poor judgment when the snorkeler finds themselves in difficulty.
- Pre-existing health conditions. The statistics show that many of the drownings that occur while snorkeling are people over 50-years old who have pre-existing health conditions, and the unfamiliar exertion has resulted in these conditions contributing to the drowning. The most common being heart conditions.
- Carbon dioxide toxicity. Snorkels are basically a tube that you breathe through, and when you exhale, your exhaled breath may not exit the snorkel completely. This can lead to snorkelers inhaling higher levels of carbon dioxide from their exhaled breath in the tube. Snorkeling for too long without taking a break can cause a build-up of high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. This leads to drowsiness and can lead to drowning.
- Poor swimming skills. While you do not need to be an expert swimmer to snorkel, it is a good idea to at least be able to swim with some competence before snorkeling in water where you cannot stand.
- Unfamiliarity with the ocean. People who are not familiar with the ocean misjudge distances and currents and can quickly find themselves in a dangerous situation if they do not remain fully aware of their surroundings at all times in the sea.
How To Enjoy Snorkeling Safely
While snorkeling does have risks, it is no more dangerous than many other activities in the water, but there are some basics that you should adhere to in order to make your snorkeling safe as well as fun.
The best way to prevent your seaside holiday from becoming a snorkeling tragedy is to follow some basic safety protocols and some common sense to avoid your snorkeling becoming a life-threatening event.
- Know your limits. If physical exercise is not common during your normal daily routine, you need to make sure that you do not over-extend yourself while snorkeling. Take frequent breaks and give yourself time to recover from the unfamiliar exertion.
- Don’t snorkel after drinking. If you are going snorkeling, save drinking any alcohol for after your snorkeling.
- Take care if you have pre-existing health conditions. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, let people in your group know about them, especially tour guides and instructors. This way, they can give you closer attention to make sure you don’t get into trouble. Don’t overextend yourself physically if you know you are not healthy.
- Use a snorkel vest. Older people, young children, and people who are not confident swimmers should consider using a snorkel vest while snorkeling. A snorkel vest will give you some additional buoyancy and help you stay afloat if you have some difficulties in the water. However, a snorkel vest is not a life jacket and should not be relied upon in this role, but it will make it easier for you to stay afloat in an emergency.
- If you start to cramp, get out of the water. If you start to cramp up while snorkeling, it is time to get out of the water. Cramp is not something that will go away without taking remedial action; it will only get worse. Cramping can be caused by dehydration, over-exertion, or the cold of the water. Whatever the cause of the cramp, it is a warning sign that should be heeded, and you should take a break from snorkeling out of the water, warm un and re-hydrate.
- Don’t snorkel alone. Even if you are a competent, or even a strong swimmer, there is no telling when you may experience some difficulty in the water. It is sensible to have someone with you that you can call on for help should you need it.
- Use the buddy system. Scuba divers are taught the buddy system during their training, and you are taught to look out for and take care of your buddy. You need to have them in your vision at all times and constantly be taking note of their conditions and for any warning signs. Taking the same approach while snorkeling would go a long way to prevent many snorkeling-related drownings where people even drowned while snorkeling in a group.
Snorkeling is fun and opens up and whole new underwater experience for many people. Even though there are dangers that are associated with snorkeling, don’t let the reports of these dangers make you fearful of trying it out.
Let the reports serve rather encourage you to stay within the guidelines for pursuing snorkeling safely.
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With the application of sensible decision-making and the knowledge that gives you wisdom, you can enjoy the snorkeling experience and have some wonderful stories to tell your friends back home!