Can You Scuba Dive After Flying?

Can You Scuba Dive After Flying?

If you dive or travel —or both— you’d be well aware of how these activities affect the pressure in your body.

The sudden changes can have adverse effects on you, and when you reach your holiday destination using a play and intend to dive, you have to ask, “Can you scuba dive after flying?”

To cover this, let’s dive into the details of pressure changes and how they affect our health.

Can You Scuba Dive After Flying?

As many divers know, you have to wait sometime before flying after you dive. This is why there’s a common misconception that you also need to wait a while to dive after flying.

In reality, there’s no risk (scientifically speaking) to diving after flying with no buffer. In other words, you’re not going to be at risk of DCS (Decompression Sickness) if you dive straight into the water after a flight.

DCS occurs when the concentration of nitrogen increases after diving. With lower pressures associated with flying, there’s a risk of the blood becoming saturated and starting to form bubbles.

While flying doesn’t contribute to the changes in nitrogen concentration levels in the blood, it does take a negative toll on hydration. Since dehydration is a partial cause of DCS and can be said to boost it, so it’s generally not the best practice to dive after flying.

However, it’s not technically dangerous like flying after scuba diving, for example.

Are You at Any Risk if You Scuba Dive After Flying?

While diving after a flight doesn’t cause decompression issues in and of itself, there aren’t any guidelines or instructions regarding when you can first dive after flying.

However, how fit you are to dive after a flight may be affected by a few factors. These include the length of the flight, which can be both fatiguing and dehydrating.

Not to mention, longer flights cause physical and mental distress, which might affect your performance and organization during dives. This, in turn, negatively affects how safe you are during your diving session.

So, while it’s not necessary, it’s safer to account for some post-flight recovery time. It’s always better to have some rest before you engage in a rigorous activity that requires both physical strength and focus on coordination.

What Precautionary Measures Can You Take to Safely Scuba Dive After Flying?

Firstly, you should avoid drinking any alcohol during your flight as alcohol increases dehydration. Secondly, make sure you drink plenty of water to keep yourself well-hydrated.

How Is Scuba Diving After Flying Different from Flying After Diving?

For new divers, the two things might seem the same. However, the science behind each sequence is different.

While you can dive immediately after a flight, you have to wait from 12 to 24 hours or even more if you want to fly after scuba diving.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s not the flight itself but the altitude, or the distance above sea level, that makes a difference.

According to some studies, it’s safe to fly after scuba diving if you’re not going to cross the thousand-foot threshold.

However, plenty of insurers wouldn’t cover the person if they fly within 24 hours of diving, be it flying at high or low altitudes.

So, unless it’s a huge emergency, you should avoid any flights altogether.

Keep in mind that flying in an unpressurized vehicle, even at low altitudes, can put you at risk of altitude decompression sickness.

Are There Activities Besides Flying That I Should Avoid After Scuba Diving?

With all the information regarding altitude and pressure changes, it’s safe to say that there are plenty of high-altitude activities that should also be avoided after a diving session.

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This is because, like flying, they would increase your risk of suffering from DCS symptoms. These include:

What Happens When You Fly After Scuba Diving?

During your scuba diving training, you’ve probably learned about decompression sickness symptoms and how dangerous they can be.

If the DCS case is too severe, it can even be fatal, and that’s why you should take the whole matter seriously.

To sum it up, the body starts taking in more nitrogen at huge depths, where the air becomes really compressed and pressure rises. This, in turn, increases the nitrogen levels in the bloodstream. You’ll need time for those levels to return to normal.

Otherwise, the nitrogen starts breaking from the solution and forms bubbles in the bloodstream as well as in the body’s tissues, and that’s where the real danger lies.

Naturally, the more diving sessions you participate in, the more recovery time you’ll need. So, it’s not only between a dive and a flight but even between dives that you should give your body some time to desaturate from the excess nitrogen.

This is why experts advise divers to regain the surface of the water slowly and to drink plenty of water before and after the session.

With that in mind, you should know that the low atmospheric pressure on planes facilitates the process of nitrogen entering your tissues faster and even reaching the joints.

Also, the longer the flights, the higher the risk of this happening. This is because longer flights often go to higher altitudes, lowering the pressure further and quickening your tissues’ nitrogen absorption process.

Dive Computers

To deal with the DCS risk issue, you can use a dive computer to calculate the time you should wait before a flight based on your no decompression limits and the nitrogen level in your blood based on your dives.

These computers also take into account the number of diving sessions as well as whether they were no decompression dives or not.

Then, with the calculated nitrogen accumulation in your bloodstream, the computer tells you the minimum amount of time you should wait before taking a flight.

Note: Taking decompression stops when you’re resurfacing can lower the nitrogen levels in your blood, making the process of returning to the norms quicker and more seamless. These stops are especially important for deep dives, as those dives are associated with more risks than DCS.

Final Words

So, when you’re wondering, “Can you scuba dive after flying?” the shortest answer would be yes.

The danger is in flying after a scuba diving session, as this is where the pressure changes affect nitrogen concentration.

Otherwise, there’s nothing scientifically dangerous about diving after flying. Still, there are some precautionary measures you can take to dive without any accidents.

Old Habits Die Hard: Why Hyperventilating Before A Free Dive Can Be Deadly

Old Habits Die Hard: Why Hyperventilating Before A Free Dive Can Be Deadly

Torben traveled around South East Asia for scuba diving and almost didn’t come back. His affinity for gear that works and his generosity for guiding people on their own path match his energy as editor of all things travel-related

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Recently, I was on a dive in my local waters. As we came out of the water, around sunset, a couple of speargun fishermen were in the water with us, a bit closer to shore than where we surfaced, floating in the surface spotting for fish below.

We passed them at a good distance to avoid startling any fish and ruining a potential catch, but even from the distance, I could hear one of them take several deep, rapid breaths before he dove down to give chase to a fish.

He came up seconds later with a nice catch, and shortly after, the two fishermen came to shore as well. When they did I asked him about the hyperventilation he had done in the water.

“Yeah,” he said, “it helps me hold my breath longer, because it saturates my blood with oxygen. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of that trick, I got it from a scuba diving textbook.”

A Dangerously Outmoded Idea

He reached into his bag and pulled out and old, dog-eared copy of a entry level scuba diving course textbook from a very well-known scuba diving certification agency.

He flipped to the page that dealt with the snorkeling and skin diving portion, and pointed to the paragraph where it did indeed mention the benefits of hyperventilating before a breath-hold dive.

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Problem was, the book was published in 1998. Since then, that particular paragraph has been updated so that it now staunchly warns against hyperventilating before a breath-hold dive.

What Happens During Hyperventilation

The problem with hyperventilation is that it doesn’t really supersaturate the blood and tissues with oxygen, as was once hypothesized, but rather depletes the bloodstream and tissues of carbon dioxide.

So rather than creating a state of hyperoxia, or excess of oxygen, it really creates more of a state of hypocapnia, or reduced CO2.

Considering that CO2 is only a byproduct of our metabolism, and something that needs to be dispelled when we exhale, that doesn’t sound so bad.

But there’s more to it than that.

Risk Of Hyperventilating Before A Free Dive

A state of elevated amounts of CO2, called hypercapnia, is one of the warning signs our body uses to tell our brain to breathe.

Generally, the urge to breathe that we experience when we hold our breaths, is triggered more by too much CO2, rather than not enough O2 in our bodies.

So by depleting our systems of CO2 by hyperventilating, we risk delaying this reaction, to the point where we have too little oxygen in our systems to remain conscious, before we feel the need to breathe, causing us to suddenly pass out, typically at the end of our dive, what is known as a shallow-water blackout among free divers.

The more aggressively we hyperventilate, the greater the risk.

Preparing The Right Way

Rather than hyperventilate, a breath-hold diver should breathe normally, seeking to reduce his or her breathing rate and pulse to a slow, relaxed state before diving.

The advice in the textbook represented the best of the knowledge available at the time it was published. It just wasn’t relevant anymore.

And because free diving (whether in the form of actual free diving, snorkeling, or spearfishing) seems so intuitive – after all, we all know how to hold our breaths – people tend to just pick up a bit of knowledge here and there, without a chance to have it verified by a qualified instructor.

This is why it is important to make sure we have the most relevant and updated information possible.

And why I would always recommend taking an introductory course in free diving before attempting breath-hold diving.

Is It Dangerous To Scuba Dive? (What You Need To Know)

Many people dream about exploring the underwater world, but they’re not sure if it’s safe to scuba dive. In this article, I’ll explain whether scuba diving is dangerous.

Is it dangerous to scuba dive?

Overall, it’s not dangerous to scuba dive with the proper training and safety steps. Scuba diving is a sporting activity with risks that you can manage.

Will I get the bends?

rudy diving and simulating decompression sickness

Rudy’s best decompression sickness impression

Any reputable dive shop takes diver safety very seriously and follows international standards set by dive organizations like PADI.

However, you still might have heard of divers getting “bent.”

“The bends” is a term for decompression sickness, which can happen if you ascend too quickly.

It can cause mild or serious injury, but cases of decompression sickness are rare among the millions of people who dive every year.

If you’re a beginner diver, your instructor will train you how to descend and ascend safely to minimize the risk of decompression.

They’ll stay with you and monitor your depth to keep you safe.

If you’re a certified diver, your divemaster will remind you of the best practices you learned in your training before your dive.

Dive computers that track your depth and ascent rates will also alert you automatically if you’re ascending too quickly. With dive professionals, training, and technology, it’s easy to stay safe underwater.

Will a shark attack me?

whale shark next to a scuba diver

Whale sharks are completely harmless, and a sight to behold. Still quite impressive if you ever get the chance to see one under water!

One of the most common questions divers get is: “Aren’t you afraid of sharks?” The truth is that sharks have been portrayed completely wrong in movies and news reports.

Sharks are important parts of any ecosystem; they help keep fish populations fit and are a sign of a healthy reef.

They have a specific diet of fish and small sea creatures – and humans aren’t on the menu. Horses, dogs, and cows attack more people every year than sharks! (3)

Most divers will tell you stories of peaceful sharks cruising the reefs during a dive, or even that sharks are hard to see because they’re afraid of divers.

Most sharks that you would see on a coastal dive, like reef and nurse sharks, aren’t aggressive at all.

Even the more aggressive species, like great white sharks, aren’t going to show up in the middle of your dive.

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You usually need to go cage diving in a more remote site, like off the coast of Mexico or South Africa, to see them.

As long as you follow your training and don’t touch, harass, or chase any sea creatures, your risk of having a bad encounter will practically disappear.

Will I run out of air?

Diving equipment and technology have improved drastically since Jacques Cousteau first started experimenting with breathing compressed air in the 1940s.

Today, divers have modern, reliable, and highly tested breathing equipment.

Regulator hoses deliver air from the tank to a diver’s lungs at just the right pressure for the diver’s depth.

Regulators are equipped with various fail-safes that continue the flow of air to the diver even if the regulator has a mechanical issue during the dive.

Divers also have an air gauge that constantly displays how much air is in the tank.

On the dive, you and your divemaster will both be checking your air, and you’ll come back up to the surface well before your tank nears empty.

As part of the pre-dive safety check, divemasters and dive buddies should always check that the tank is full and the regulator and air gauge are working well.

If you, your divemaster, and your dive buddy all fail to notice that your tank is suddenly empty, every diver has a spare breathing hose you can hop on to.

That’s why training before a dive includes how to share air, and why dive standards are adamant that you always have a buddy within a few meters.

Almost all problems with air can be avoided by following standards and training.

Will I get lost underwater?

diver lost underwater with a surprise expression

Some people worry that they’ll lose sight of the group or get swept away by a current. There are many safety checks in place to make sure that water conditions are safe and that the group stays together.

Before a dive, the captain and divemasters evaluate the water conditions to make sure it’s safe to dive.

Divemasters give you a briefing about the conditions and which direction to follow. You can ask to consult maps and diagrams of the area so you know what to expect underwater.

Some dive shops will even provide you with an underwater compass on request so that you can navigate back to the boat.

If you’re diving with only a certified buddy, staying within a few meters of them at all times will mean you’re never on your own.

If you’re following a guide, keeping them in sight is the best plan – after all, they know the area best.

Divers often get distracted by chasing fish or taking pictures and can lose sight of the groups, so stay aware of where you’re going.

If you do get lost and the procedures from training don’t reunite you with the group, it’s always a possibility to ascend – very slowly – and reunite on the surface or head back to the boat.

Will my ears get injured?

An ear injury, or barotrauma, is the most common scuba injury.

One of the first tricks you learn before going underwater is how to “equalize” the pressure of the water on your ears as you descend. Most divers can find a method that works for them, even if they struggle to equalize their ears at first.

If you don’t equalize correctly, or try to force it when it’s not working, you can inflame or seriously damage your sinuses and inner ears. The key is to be patient and descend slowly, and only when you’re sure your ears feel fine.

It’s possible to have trouble equalizing on the way back up if your ears or sinuses get congested underwater, like when you have a cold. Unfortunately, it’s best not to dive when you’re congested. Even decongestant medicines can wear off while you’re on the dive and cause problems with your ascent.

Just like most scuba issues, ear problems can be prevented or resolved with good training and precautions.


Scuba diving is a fun and immersive experience enjoyed by millions of people around the world, but it’s still an extreme sport.

If you follow the accepted safety standards and training, it’s unlikely that you’ll get anything more than a sunburn.

Do you think scuba diving is safe? If you have a question or something you would add, leave a comment below!




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