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Suffocation is a game mechanic which occurs when a player or mob's upper body is inside a solid block, preventing them from breathing, similar to realistic causes of suffocation. Suffocation can also occur by having a player's upper body in water for long enough that their air meter has become empty. When a player dies of suffocation, the contents of their inventory will spill out onto the ground and remain somewhere near or inside the block where he/she died, unless keep inventory is on.
Sources of suffocation
- Drowning of a mob or player in water.
- Sand or gravel is arguably the most common way of suffocation after water. Standing directly under sand or gravel when it is falling will cause it to begin suffocating a player once it makes direct contact with them.
- Riding a boat, minecart or pig or throwing an Ender pearl into a 1 block high area.
- Using bonemeal on mushrooms or saplings to instantly grow them directly under a mob or player.
- Using faulty piston mechanisms.
- Standing or swimming where water and lava are about to make contact could place an obsidian, stone or cobblestone block where a player's head is, causing them to suffocate.
- Squids and fish suffocate outside of water.
- Tamed wolves and cats might suffocate when they teleport to their owner, if they teleport directly into a wall.
- There is a glitch that can cause a player to suffocate whilst walking down a diagonal stone tunnel for no apparent reason.
- Sleeping in a bed with blocks one block above ground adjacent to it may cause a player to suffocate when they wake up.
Preventing Drowning in Water
When a player or mob is submerged in water long enough that their air meter has fully emptied, their health bar will start to lose half a heart every second. Other than simply swimming up to the water's surface every so often for air, there are a few situations where a player can stay underwater for a longer period, even indefinitely, effectively preventing suffocation:
- A potion of Water Breathing will temporarily prevent a player's air meter from depleting, allowing him/her to stay underwater until it wears off.
- Eating an enchanted apple will grant a player a similar temporary Water Breathing effect as the potion mentioned above.
- The Respiration enchantment allows a player to stay underwater for a longer period before succumbing to drowning, as the air meter will drain at a slower rate. However, this will not make a player completely immune to drowning, as he/she will still eventually run out of air.
- Having a boat on hand since the boat will automatically float to the surface when placed underwater. However, since the boat will float upwards immediately after placement, a player must right click on it quickly in order to get in it.
- The best way to avoid suffocation from gravel or sand when mining is to first place a torch directly under the blocks expected to fall and then mine the blocks above it. The falling gravel or sand will drop as an item when it hits the torch.