Skydivers and the need to breathe.

I was fliping through the channels on t.v. recently and came across a show that was doing a piece on skydivers. It said that because skydivers move through so much air at such a rapid pace, that their bodies absorb enough oxygen through their skin and there is no need for them to breathe.
Now, I realize that our skin can indeed absorb gases in from the air, but I don’t believe for a second that skydivers dont have to breathe normally. Besides, most of their skin is covered up anyway and I sure as hell would’nt believe a nude skydiver. Is there any truth to this claim? Has it been documented?

According to Cecil, we don’t breathe through our skin:

If you were painted gold, as in the movie “Goldfinger,” would you die?


Well, just because I was curious, I went and looked up just how fast a skydiver is going.

And a simple Google search under “breathe freefall” brought up lots and lots of hits. Among others…

And I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. There are evidently people out there who really believe you can breathe through your skin. The rest of this website is, as far as I can tell, absolutely 100% on-the-money skydiving info.

And, dammit, here’s another one. Who ARE these people?

Okay, so now I’m mad. This is deeply stupid. I’m gonna go find out whether you can in fact absorb oxygen through your skin.



So where is this “you can absorb oxygen through your skin” factoid coming from, anyway? Answer–oxygen facials. Cosmetics with “oxygen” in them. “Oxygenating” body washes. None of these do a thing besides fatten the wallet of the manufacturer.

Mammals cannot absorb oxygen through their skin. Mammals have dry skin. Amphibians and worms have wet skin, to facilitate the absorption of oxygen through the capillaries in their skin. It doesn’t work with dry skin.

And if whales, porpoises, and orcas could absorb oxygen through their skin, they wouldn’t need lungs. A search for “dolphins absorb oxygen skin” brings up nothing relevant.

Amphibians have lungs anyway–absorbing oxygen through their skin is just a supplement. Mammals have much more efficient lungs, and much more efficient four-chambered hearts to pump blood through them–we don’t need to absorb oxygen through our skin.

And then, just as I’m winding down, up pops a website that claims humans use 2% of their skin for breathing. Gloriosky. :rolleyes:

There’s a table that also says brown bats use 12% of their skin for breathing, and that boa constrictors use 21%. It goes on to say,

This applies to amphibians and worms, yes, but not humans or bats.

Okay, I’m game. However, a search under “brown bat oxygen skin” turns up nothing relevant. Ditto a search for “boa constrictor oxygen skin”.


Okay, people, for the last time:

Salamanders can absorb oxygen through their skin.
Frogs can absorb oxygen through their skin.
Earthworms can absorb oxygen through their skin.

Not people. Mammals cannot absorb oxygen through their skin.

The reason you don’t suffocate in freefall is because it’s only 35 seconds long, and you can certainly hold your breath for that long if going 150 mph makes it physically difficult for you to breathe.

I have a life total of about four minutes spent in freefall and there are dedicated skydivers out there with hours of freefall time. My longest freefall was 35 seconds and I just breathed normally through my nose as I admired the view. (After 35 seconds the ground was a lot closer than when I rolled out the door of the airplane.) It’s been a few years but I don’t remember any problems whatsoever breathing and I don’t recall any discussion in skydiving circles about breathing problems. I do remember the need to wear goggles, though. The high wind speed beats your eyelashes against your eyeballs and can cause scarring that will affect your vision.
This “breathing through your skin” stuff sounds totally nuts to me.

Cover your Mouth and nose with duct tape.

Make certain you have the nostrils and mouth completely covered.

Leave it on, because if you can breath through your skin, you WILL NOT suffocate, right?
I’m a skydiver. What I can tell you is, it’s really really windy. Other than that, no problem. Just breathe as you usually do.

As for those who believe they can breathe through the skin, I suggest they try the above test once again…because they obviously didn’t get the right results the first time.

“Be sure to get your WHOLE head in front of the shotgun. Thank you for calling.” -Denis Leary