Has Anyone Died From Snorkeling?

August 23, 2022 2 min read

There have been more snorkel-related drownings on Maui than on any other island. The most likely cause of these drownings is a pulmonary condition known as rapid onset pulmonary edema (ROPE). Although it doesn't occur as a result of inhaling water, snorkeling can trigger sudden respiratory problems. Inhaling water is not the only risk involved. Hypoxia, heart attack, and immersion pulmonary oedema are also dangers of snorkeling.


Recent research has found that visitors are at a higher risk of snorkeling-related drownings than local residents. This is due in part to visitors' lack of swimming ability. Hypoxia, or reduced oxygen levels, is one of the main causes of these accidents. It is a condition characterized by diminished pressure in the lungs and a rapid onset of pulmonary edema. As a result, a swimmer can drown very quickly.

Immersion Pulmonary Oedema

Snorkeling and immersion pulmonary, also known as IPO, are two serious conditions resulting in edema of the lungs. The symptoms of immersion pulmonary oedema include respiratory distress, dyspnea, and hemoptysis. When the pressure of the water on the lungs increases, plasma leaks into the surrounding air spaces. The lungs become enlarged, blood-stained, and heavy.

Heart Attack

Many middle-aged and older people enjoy scuba diving as a recreational activity. However, statistics have shown that scuba diving related deaths are on the rise, particularly among older people. While most older divers began participating in these activities when they were younger, they continued them even as their health declined. Despite this, however, many older people are at risk for cardiac issues while diving. In order to prevent the risks associated with diving and scuba diving, it is crucial to know how to keep the heart healthy.

Breathing Through a Snorkel

While the most common reason for snorkel-related deaths is poor swimming ability, the use of a snorkel has also been a contributing factor in many cases. Recent studies show that snorkeling can trigger a respiratory condition known as rapid onset pulmonary edema, or Rope. Although snorkeling does not cause Rope, it can trigger it in people with a history of the condition.

Full-Face Masks

A study conducted in Hawaii last year raised concerns about full-face masks for snorkeling. The primary concern was CO2 buildup, as humans exhale carbon dioxide while breathing. When immersed in water, CO2 can collect in the voids in the mask, causing headaches, dizziness, and unconsciousness. Such buildups can prove life-threatening. However, the study did not identify any specific causes for CO2 buildup in full-face masks.

Breath-Hold Diving

During the past century, breath-hold diving has claimed the lives of numerous swimmers, military personnel, and other people. In fact, there are at least 18 documented incidents of breath-hold diving death. Sadly, many of these incidents were preventable, as these behaviors have been proven dangerous for people under water. There are also various warning signs that should be taken into consideration before engaging in breath-hold diving.

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