Can You Drown With a Life Jacket? Yes

Can You Drown With a Life Jacket? Yes

We will explore each of the drowning risks with a life jacket in detail below, along with tips on how to stay safe in the water while wearing a life jacket.

No matter what kind of watersport you are into, wearing a life jacket is required. No matter how adept you are at swimming or whether you prefer swimming in shallow water, most beaches won’t let you engage in water sports without a life jacket.

While the majority of people are aware that life jackets can help someone avoid drowning, there is a regrettable misunderstanding that many hold that wearing one completely eliminates the possibility.

Even when wearing a life jacket, there are some situations where a person can drown. Let’s go over each circumstance in more detail and discuss how to reduce your risk of drowning while donning a life jacket.

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Can You Drown With a Life Jacket?

Life jackets are often thought to be a person’s saving grace in emergency crises involving water. But, unfortunately, wearing a life jacket does not necessarily guarantee that you’re safe from the clutches of drowning.

You can drown with a life jacket on. Rough water conditions, unconsciousness, underwater entrapment, hypothermia, old or poorly maintained life jackets, and loose-fitting life jackets can cause a person to drown if they’re not careful.

To be able to take precautions to avoid each of these risks, it’s critical to be aware of them all.

Why You Can Drown With a Life Jacket On?

Can You Drown With a Life Jacket? Yes

Unfortunately, a lot of people believe the myth that drowning is impossible if you’re wearing a life jacket. Wearing a life jacket unquestionably reduces the risk of drowning, but it does not eliminate it. Even those who choose to wear a life jacket may still be subject to a number of risks, which we will go over below.

Dangerous Water Conditions

Most beaches forbid participating in water sports when the water is choppy for a reason. While life jackets prevent swimmers from slipping underneath the surface, they won’t do anything to protect the swimmer against large waves.

Large waves have the power to drag a swimmer underwater repeatedly in a flush drowning process. Sports like kayaking and paddling frequently involve flush drowning. The repeated immersion under water can cause water to enter your nose and mouth, knocking you out. If water gets in your mouth or nose, you risk choking or even drowning.

Becoming Unconscious While in the Water

While a life jacket can aid in flotation, if you are unconscious, there is no way to know if you will be floating correctly. You might float on the surface while facedown in the water if you receive a blow to the head, (from, say, falling off your surfboard) and lose consciousness.

Given a strong enough blow to the head, there’s a good chance that you won’t regain consciousness for some time. Since your head and limbs will naturally droop forward, there is a greater chance that you will float facedown. If you fall unconscious and facedown in the water, you only have around four to six minutes before irreversible brain damage and death occurs.

Getting Trapped Or Snagged Underwater

Underwater entrapment is among the most terrifying things that can occur to you while you’re out in open water. When a foot becomes impaled by objects or structures submerged in water (e.g., a coral reef), you become immobilized and unable to return to the surface.

Can You Drown With a Life Jacket? Yes

In shallow waters, subaquatic entrapment is frequent. Most drowning incidents occur when a person becomes too tired to hold their head above the water. If you fall forward or are unable to maintain your head above the water, wearing a life jacket is of little assistance.

Experiencing Hypothermia

Wearing a life jacket won’t lessen the risk of hypothermia if you are swimming in cold water. You might be surprised to learn that hypothermia can strike even in water as warm as 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia does, however, happen more quickly in cold waters.

The risk of drowning increases in hypothermic conditions along with both declining mental function and loss of consciousness. Long-term exposure can make it more likely that you will hit your head because you will react to environmental dangers more slowly. Your body will eventually naturally shut down, so even if you avoid hitting your head, you will eventually lose consciousness.

Using Old Or Damaged Life Jackets

Life jackets that are worn out or damaged shouldn’t be used for water sports because they aren’t protective and buoyant enough. If you use a worn-out life jacket, you will have to work much harder to stay afloat, increasing your risk of exhaustion.

Whether a life jacket is still safe enough to wear can be difficult to determine. If there are visible tears in the material, you should immediately consider replacing your life jacket.

Using Ill-fitting Life Jackets

Only if it fits you snugly and securely can a life jacket be useful. Keep in mind that the conditions you’ll likely encounter in the water will be challenging. It is simple to remove yourself from a loose-fitting life jacket.

Can You Drown With a Life Jacket? Yes

There is a purpose for the variety of sizes that life jackets come in! Don’t chance it by using a generic life jacket that you can rent on the beach if you frequently venture out into open or choppy waters. It is best to use a life jacket that fits well on your frame.

Is It Even Worth It to Wear a Life Jacket?

Some of you may be considering whether life jackets are even necessary given the risks that drowning swimmers face while still wearing one. To be clear, whenever you go out onto open water, you should always wear a life jacket. When things get tough, it’s much better to be wearing a life jacket than not.

This claim is supported by a wealth of evidence. According to the statistics provided by members of the U.S. Coast Guard, “over 80% of drowning victims were NOT wearing life jackets when found”. That means that only one drowning death per five involved a person wearing a life jacket.

Those who jump into the water in times of crisis usually do so without warning. They almost never have the luxury of reaching for a life jacket before being submerged. This is why it’s imperative that you always wear a life jacket when you’re on a watercraft. It only takes a few moments for the situation to go from safe to dire. As a result, you should be completely prepared in case a risky situation develops.

Despite having the best swimming abilities in the world, they won’t help you if you pass out. The unfortunate reality is that severe head trauma can incapacitate anyone, regardless of their swimming ability.

Your life jacket and the people around you are your best chances of survival if you ever lose consciousness while falling into the water. Sadly, there’s no guarantee that you can rely on yourself to get to safety.

How to Minimize Drowning Risk While Wearing a Life Jacket?

Can You Drown With a Life Jacket? Yes

Now that we’ve gone through the various dangers of drowning with a life jacket, you’re likely wondering how to protect yourself against a danger that could strike at any moment. Of course, everyone knows you should wear a life jacket at the bare minimum, but what else can you do to ensure your own personal safety?

  • Wearing life jackets that are secure and properly fitted

There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” life jacket.” For the best protection and safety, you must choose a life jacket that is the right size for your height and weight. To find one that fits you comfortably, it might take a little bit of trial and error.

An ideal fit should be snug without being constrictive. You shouldn’t be able to slip your arms through arm holes, but you should still be able to breathe normally and move your arms freely.

  • Checking the condition of your life jacket

You should inspect your life jacket every time before using it to go out in the water. Be on the lookout for cracks, tears, and wear and tear indications. Aside from that, make sure the straps or clasps are still tightly fastened. Check the functionality of any additional safety features on your life jacket, such as a whistle or safety lights.

Before venturing out into open water, it’s a good idea to test the buoyancy of your life jacket by diving into a shallow body of water. It’s time to get a new life jacket if it can’t keep you afloat in shallow water.

  • Dressing warmly underneath

A great way to prevent hypothermia is to dress warmly. Remember, if you spend enough time in the water, hypothermia can occur even in warmer weather. One of the best outfits for maintaining body heat is a wetsuit.

Wetsuits are uncomfortable for some people and too heavy. If you live somewhere warm, you might want to wear board shorts and a rash guard instead. Just be sure to wear a layer of protection underneath your life jacket.

  • Use the buddy system

It might be cliche, but there is truth to the saying, “there’s safety in numbers”. Even though it’s preferable to go out in a group on open water, if it’s not possible, you should at least use the buddy system.

The more people you have with you, the safer it will be. A group is simpler to identify than a lone individual. Additionally, having more people means you will have more support in the event of a disaster.


It goes without saying that a life jacket is an essential piece of equipment for keeping you safe while you’re on the water, but you shouldn’t rely on it as your only line of defense. Even though wearing a life jacket can help you avoid drowning, accidents are still possible to avoid.

One aspect of staying safe in the water is wearing a good, sturdy, and long-lasting life jacket. In addition, you should maintain a healthy lifestyle, make use of a buddy system, and dress appropriately to protect yourself.

In short, the more details about your aquatic adventures you divulge to others, the safer you will be. You don’t want to rely solely on a life jacket to keep you from drowning and becoming stranded in the water. That’s just a recipe for disaster, to put it plainly.


Will a Life Jacket Keep You Afloat If You Can’t Swim?

Most people associate life jackets with boating, but they can also help provide support for inexperienced and non-swimmers in or around water, including open water, such as lakes, oceans, ponds, reservoirs, and rivers, as well as controlled environments, such as a pool, waterpark or lifeguarded beach.

How Long Can You Survive in Water With a Life Jacket?

Only those who are wearing a life jacket will typically survive longer than 10 minutes; however, most cold water deaths happen much before this.

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