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Suffocation is a game mechanic where a player or mob is unable to breathe as a result of its head being inside a solid block. This results in 1 (File:Half Heart.png) damage every half-second. When inside a block, the player can easily step out of it.

Blocks that are transparent or do not fill an entire block do not cause suffocation. This includes leaves, slabs, honey blocks, stairs, fences, bells, chests, hoppers, composters, grindstones, stonecutters, iron bars, end portal frames, trapdoors, and extended piston heads. Despite being partially transparent, slime blocks can cause suffocation.

Entities take suffocation damage if too many are packed into the same space, and the maxEntityCramming gamerule defines the maximum number.[Java Edition only]

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 boatminecart 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

A gif of the player losing bubbles.

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 to get in it.
  • Placing a boat underwater that cannot be waterlogged, and entering the small air gap it creates, allows the player to regain air bubbles for as long as they are in the air gap. This can be done with blocks such as doors and fence gates.


  • 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.
  • You can trap another player using Obsidian by placing water and lava below them.