HONOLULU (KHON2) — With an uptick in tourists coming to the islands we could see more snorkeling accidents and drownings. The Hawaii Tourism Authority worked with the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association to conduct a snorkel safety study. 

It was a two-year study that helped both agencies understand the causes and risk factors in snorkel-related fatalities and near fatal drownings. The final report which was given in 2021 which broke down the different factors that may cause a snorkeling accident. 

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Equipment, pre-existing medical conditions, human factors, environmental factors and change of altitude / air travel were all investigated and taken into consideration for the most recent snorkel safety study. 

Their finding’s showed visitors are at least 10 times more at risk than residents and rescue personnel to have identified a lack of swimming ability on the part of many visitors as a major factor in this disparity.  

Researchers said one of the most important findings from their study is the confirmation that Rapid Onset Pulmonary Edema (ROPE) is the trigger leading to hypoxia in some fatal and non-fatal snorkel-related drownings. 

Because the snorkel is a narrow tube which could generate resistance to inhalation, if the resistance is strong enough it could result in reduced pressure in the lungs and that can lead to ROPE. 

If a snorkeler is experiencing ROPE their symptoms might first be shortness of breath due to hypoxia, and if the snorkeler increases exertion, then the hypoxia could be hastened. It was found that insufficient oxygen can cause a loss of muscle strength, confusion, and possibly death. That is because the heart tries to pump more oxygen, resulting in loss of consciousness and clinical death. 

There is still more research to be done and researchers with the Snorkel Safety Study are looking into the impact of flying to Hawai’i in high altitudes possibly impacting snorkelers along with the different types of face masks used while snorkeling. 

They currently have a survey up on their website and encourage anyone who almost drowned while snorkeling or knows someone who almost drowned to take the survey

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For more information about this study or for more helpful tips head to Snorkel Safety Study’s website