Is it easy to do freediving

Apnea diving: Freediving risk

Apnea diving - with one breath into the depths: diving without a compressed air cylinder is becoming increasingly popular. Possible blackouts and danger of decoration are easily underestimated, especially by beginners. What should snorkelers and occasional freedivers watch out for? The TAUCHEN medical team explains potential risks.

Professional apneaists know the potential dangers of chasing diving records. Many snorkelers and fun divers, on the other hand, are simply enthusiastic about the limitless freedom of freediving without knowing the dangers involved. A term that is often used is hyperventilation - the main risks are directly related to it. That's what it's all about: Many apnea divers and snorkelers breathe deeply in and out several times before diving. They do this on the assumption that this will help store more oxygen in the blood. However, this only occurs to a very small extent: in healthy people, the oxygen saturation of the blood is normally almost 98 percent. Even with the most intensive breathing this increases only insignificantly. However, through a conscious deepening of breathing, there is an increased release of carbon dioxide, that is, in relation to the actual need to "overbreath" - medically this is called hyperventilation.

First aid drills should be familiar to apnea divers. Photo: E. Schulz

Hyperventilation increases the apnea time

Controlling breathing is a very complex process that depends on the actual needs of the body. The variables mainly measured by the respiratory center are the partial pressure of carbon dioxide and the pH value of the blood. Only in the second instance is the partial pressure of oxygen taken into account. In fact, hyperventilation increases the apnea time. This is explained by the lowering of the carbon dioxide content of the blood and the longer time it takes for sufficient CO2 to be formed. The simultaneous shift in the pH value and the increased decrease in calcium ions in the blood fluid lead to abnormal sensations: tingling sensations around the mouth and hands and, in severe cases, cramps in all muscles. The typical picture of the "paw position" follows. The simultaneous reduced blood flow to the brain due to a drop in blood pressure, vascular constriction and more difficult delivery of oxygen from hemoglobin can cause a lack of oxygen in the brain and lead to unconsciousness on land. The assertion that the more conscious you breathe, the blood becomes much richer in oxygen, is not true. On the contrary: dangerous side effects can also be felt on land.

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