Study Finds Potentially Deadly Condition That Could Kill Open Water Swimmers

A new research found a condition called swimming-induced pulmonary edema, which could potentially kill swimmers in open water.

Be careful when you go for a swim. Studies have found a condition which involves the buildup of fluid in the heart muscle when people go for a casual swim in any water body. This buildup of fluid can be potentially life-threatening and cause people to drown from the inside. It does not matter whether or not the person is an expert's swimmer, this is an internal problem the cause of which experts have determined in their research. This condition is called, 'swimming-induced pulmonary edema or SIPE.' It is a type of immersive pulmonary edema which could lead to the accumulation of fluid in the lungs of swimmers without them inhaling any of it through external organs like from the mouth or the nose.

This happens as a result of high pressure on the blood vessels of the body due to immersion, exertion and exposure to cold temperature. The condition can cause difficulty breathing, low blood oxygen levels, coughing, foamy or bloody spit, and in some cases death.

Study Finds Fluid Buildup In Woman

Experts studied a woman in her 50's who swam in open water in 17 degree Celsius. The study found a buildup of fluid in her heart muscles. She reported that even while swimming; she felt her lungs fill with fluid after which she started coughing and frothy pink sputum. She was taken to the emergency room ad these symptoms reportedly reduced after two hours.

Experts Opinion On SIPE

Experts have opined that people who go for a swim in open waters rarely drown due to any reason other that SIPE. This condition is also not very uncommon. Data shows that about 1 in 200 participants in Sweden's annual Vansbro Swim race could develop this condition. Among the young men selected for the US navy Seals, 1 in 20 people have ben reported with this condition. While cases are common in people who are fit and healthy, there are a number of known risk factors, including age, high blood pressure, being a woman, and swimming in cold water.

The Takeaway

Specialists who have studied diving medicine state that, everyone should be aware of SIPE. In case any one is experiencing symptoms like shortness of breathe while swimming should immediately get out of water and consult seek medical attention. There is also a strong chance that this condition will not limit to just one episode and it might happen each time a person goes for a swim in open water. This is a fatal condition and awareness and prevention regarding it is crucial.

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