Scuba Diving Health Restrictions – Are you Healthy Enough To Dive?

Before you start scuba diving, you need to make sure that you are actually healthy enough to dive. There are a variety of conditions and illnesses that will have an impact on whether you can dive or not.

Short-Term Illnesses

Short term illnesses and conditions that will temporarily keep you from diving include colds, the flu, ear infections, as well as some physical injuries.

Injuries can sometimes be an issue with diving. The injury itself might not physically prevent you from diving but certain injuries, like to your joints, could become an issue when it comes to decompression sickness. For example, if an air bubble developed in the joint due to an injury, when in the water the pressure could aggravate it or actually move it to under your skin. Either way, the experience can be extremely painful. So it is better that all injuries be healed before you go diving.

When you have a cold or the flu, your sinus system is already compromised and can be blocked. When diving, it is critical that you are able to equalize the pressure in your ears and sinus cavities to the same pressure of the water around you. If you cannot equalize the pressure because you are all clogged up, then things like ruptured sinus or eardrums can occur and in some cases even deafness.

You should never dive if you have an active infection – whether it is internal or external. This is because the water is full of organisms, bacteria, and salts which can cause complications or really aggravate your infection.


Medications and Scuba Diving

If you are on medications of any kind, you need to ask your doctor about the safety of scuba diving while taking such medication. This includes prescription medications and over the counter medications. Medications that cause drowsiness, for example, should be avoided before going scuba diving.


Asthma and Scuba Diving

Asthma can prevent you from scuba diving. Check with your healthcare provider to determine whether it is ok to go diving or not. As you dive you will be exerting a fair amount of physical energy which could cause an asthma attack. Also, the air that you breath from your tank is pretty dry and cool and this could bring on an asthma attack, which you do not want to have happen at 80 feet under the water.


Diabetes and Scuba Diving

Diabetes can be an issue too, especially if you had a hypoglycemic episode within the last year or if you have no control over your blood glucose levels. Again here you need to check with your healthcare provider to see if you can dive or not. The amount of physical exercise that you get when diving can be an issue for some Diabetics too. Problems like kidney issues, heart problems, blood vessels caused by diabetes can prevent you from diving as well.

Diabetics also go through “highs” and “lows” which can cause bad judgment and poor decision-making processes which could cause a catastrophe underwater should one come on. “Lows” can cause severe jitters and “highs” can cause severe anxiety as well.

Heart Conditions

Heart Health

Having heart problems can also prevent you from diving. Things like recent bypass surgeries, heart attacks of any kind, severe hypertension, heart shuts and stents, and pacemakers. Check with your cardiologist to ensure your heart is strong enough for scuba diving.


Vision and Scuba Diving

You must be able to see where you are going and recognize underwater landmarks so that you don’t get lost and lose your entry point or exit point. People who wear glasses can get a prescription dive mask or if there is enough space in the mask you can even mount a pair of glasses in it.

Mental Health

Mental Disorders and Scuba Diving

People who have been diagnosed to have bipolar disorder, depression, or other mental issues that affect decision making or judgment calls should not dive. A lack of judgment or a bad decision made while diving during an emergency can cost peoples lives and should, therefore, be avoided. These would be treated on a case by case level and you should talk to your Psychiatrist before wanting to go scuba diving. Some medications for mental illness could prevent you from diving and again should be discussed with the doctor who is prescribing it for you.

If you suffer from epilepsy or have convulsions, you cannot dive as scuba diving schools will not certify you for diving.

If you have had a head injury or lost consciousness within the past few years, you should seek medical advice before scuba diving. Also, note that scuba diving may trigger migraine headaches.

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Mouth, Skin and Internal Health

Dental Issues and Scuba Diving

Teeth can be a major issue when it comes to scuba diving. If a cavity forms or there is an air pocket under say, a filling, then your teeth may rupture on an ascent. So it is a good idea to have your teeth checked by a qualified dentist if you have concerns about your teeth.

There are also many varieties of dermatitis that may become aggravated by prolonged contact with water, or contact with materials used in scuba equipment.

If you are suffering from any kind of nausea or gastrointestinal issues you should be cautious about diving as you do not want to be vomiting under the water or getting a hernia.

Lung diseases may also prevent you from diving as it raises the chances of lung barotrauma and collapsed lungs occurring. Lung diseases can include TB, Lung Fibrosis and lung surgeries amongst others.

Obviously, anyone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol should not dive.

Medical Tips And Final Thoughts

Scuba Diving Medical

Many dive schools will now require you to get a physical done before you can begin classes. There are specialized doctors that your dive school or a dive organization will be able to inform you of where one is located near you. The exam usually includes a stress test that will test you physically to rule out any issues you might have with exertion.

And the bottom line is if you do not feel “right” or not “normal” then DON’T dive! Risking your life is never worth a dive, even if you have traveled halfway around the world.

Speaking of traveling, you should know that there a required wait time between flying and diving. This is because when you dive residual gases build up in your body and bloodstream. So if you fly right after a dive you run the risk of getting decompression sickness or “The Bends” which is extremely painful and can lead to death.

Treatment for decompression sickness is done in a Hyperbaric chamber. Decompression sickness is when the residual gases come out of your body and bloodstream to fast and form little bubbles which get into your joints and under the skin and your heart, amongst other things, is extremely painful and can lead to death.

Hyperbaric Chamber

The general rule of thumb is that you should not fly less than twelve hours after a dive, though it will be safer to wait a full 24 hours after diving before flying. Many dive computers have an indicator on them that will tell you a safe time to fly based on your personal information and the nitrogen levels.

Remember that this is your life – and you only have one of those. Don’t risk diving when you have a condition or are sick that may be affected negatively by the dive. It simply is not worth it to risk your health or your life.

So if you are thinking of going diving or learning to dive, go see your doctor first and make sure you are healthy enough to dive. Then jump on in and enjoy all that diving can give you.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and will gladly get back to you. See you down below.

Find Out Medical Conditions That Might Stop You From Scuba Diving

Find Out Medical Conditions That Might Stop You From Scuba Diving

Scuba diving in the beautiful marine is pretty safe compared to most extreme sports. And the security gear is even safer than skydiving’s double safety mechanism.

There’s one caveat, though – while injuries are rare in scuba diving, the sheer atmospheric pressure and loads of other physics-related stuff interacting with your body in deep waters can be uncomfortable for an unhealthy person.

In layman’s terms, scuba diving is a physically and mentally strenuous activity that isn’t for everyone. I’ll explain in detail – then we’ll discuss common medical conditions that prevent you from doing scuba.

What makes scuba diving different from other extreme sports?

According to the 2020 study, Medical Examination of the Recreational SCUBA Diver, “SCUBA diving is an enjoyable and safe sport when it is pursued by healthy, well-trained, disciplined and well-equipped individuals who are comfortable in the water. Since the sport diver is out for recreation, there is no need to take chances or shortcuts with any of these factors.”

Scuba diving is one of the most demanding sports for an unhealthy person because of one factor – water is denser than air. You can get away with a slight error with skydiving and other “above ground” extreme sports, but not with scuba diving.

In scuba diving, your body faces more pressure and exhaustion the deeper you go below sea level. Even with a full oxygen tank, your body deals with various forces like changing atmospheric pressure, which takes a massive toll on your inner ears and lungs.

That said, a relatively healthy human body can easily withstand most of these phenomena. Where exactly do we draw the line for the eligibility criteria?

Who should not go scuba diving?

People with medical issues related to lungs, heart, and brain should not go technical diving. Common conditions include asthma, cardiovascular diseases, pneumothorax, seizures, and diabetes. They may get away with recreational scuba diving if the issues are mild.

Medical Conditions That Stop You From Scuba Diving

Dozens of medical conditions could potentially stop you from scuba diving or other sports. The human body is complicated. So, to make this influx of information easy for you, I’ve categorized the conditions into eight sections.

1. Neurological Problems

People with neurological problems, especially the spinal cord or the peripheral nerves connecting the spinal cord to the brain, aren’t allowed scuba diving. Individuals with a history of seizures also fall in this category.

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What medical conditions can stop you from scuba diving?

Spinal Cord

The strictness of these policies is subjective and varies among different locations. Some scuba diving instructors won’t allow you to dive even if you have a clearance certificate from a medical professional.

Scuba diving is not allowed for a person suffering from epilepsy. If you have been off medication and without a seizure for over 5 years, you might be considered fit to dive. For patients with nocturnal seizures, you have to be off medication for at least 3 years.

These strict rules are enforced because you can potentially have a seizure at any time, even if the possibility is super low.

Major Neurological Conditions:

  • Seizures (less than 5 years)
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Paralysis
  • Cerebrovascular insufficiency
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Aneurysm
  • TIA strokes

2. Cardiovascular (Heart) Problems

Scuba diving is no walk in the park – the change in pressure not only affects your lungs (breathing) but also your heart (blood pressure). Diving can be difficult if you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems.

For example, you can’t scuba dive if you have persistent hypertension, chest pains, and palpitations in addition to high blood pressure. A medical clearance certificate is almost always required in these situations. You can also get the certificate as a precautionary step if you have had cases of heart murmur and premature death in the direct family.

As for the hematological problems, you need to be careful as it increases the chances of getting decompression illness (DCI). It’s recommended to wait 6 months to a year after a heart attack or heart surgery before scuba diving.

Major Cardiovascular Conditions:

  • Coronary artery/heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Chronic immersion pulmonary edema
  • High blood pressure
  • Implanted cardiac defibrillator
  • Pulmonary hypertension

More minor conditions include using a pacemaker and a single isolated case of pulmonary edema. Hematological problems include chronic anemia.

3. Mental Health & Behavioural Problems

This one is quite tricky because diagnosing behavioral and other mental health problems aren’t cut and dry. Additionally, you won’t be barred from having just about any random mental health condition.

The issue is the seriousness of the problem because that directly correlates to your medication. For example, you should NOT take psychotropic medications while scuba diving. If so, you’ll need medical clearance from a psychiatrist.

What medical conditions can stop you from scuba diving?

Scuba Diving can feel claustrophobic

As I said, these conditions don’t matter as much as their intensity does since so many of these are very hard to evaluate for a scuba diving situation.

For instance, if you have severe depression, bipolar disorder, or psychosis, you might get medical clearance to scuba dive, but it may put your well-being at high risk.

Major Mental Health Conditions:

  • Psychosis
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Severe Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Severe issues of drug and alcohol abuse
  • Claustrophobia/agoraphobia

4. Respiratory & Pulmonary Problems

You shouldn’t go scuba diving if you have asthma, as the conditions that might lead to an asthma attack are inherent to scuba diving. These attacks can tighten the airflow by constricting the muscles, which isn’t ideal underwater because it can lead to drowning.

Other pulmonary ailments are just as dangerous because they place a tremendous toll on your lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. This strain can often result in pulmonary over-inflation and alveolar ruptures – both of which can be fatal underwater.

An alveolar rupture is dangerous because it can accidentally bypass air in the bloodstream, leading to an arterial gas embolism (AGE). And an embolism like that underwater is the recipe for a stroke attack.

Major Respiratory Conditions:

  • Pneumothorax
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Asthma
  • Thoracic surgery
  • Lung disease

5. Gastrointestinal & Metabolic Problems

It might sound far-fetched, but diabetes can prevent you from scuba diving. Severely diabetic or obese (BMI above 30) individuals usually can’t scuba dive in the United States because it can be fatal if your blood sugar levels are off.

Also, gastrointestinal problems / conditions are an absolute NO for scuba diving. Any gastrointestinal condition that leads to acid reflux, vomiting, perforation, and diarrhea will immediately get you off the boat – and for good reason because even one of these outcomes is enough to drown you.

Ps…pregnancy also prevents you from scuba diving.

6. Cancer Problems

You should not attempt scuba diving while on chemotherapy because chemo and radiation therapy are exhausting and bring your stamina levels to zero. Ideally, wait until after you’re fully recovered from the effects of your therapy.

Since cancer isn’t an exact problem, the scuba restrictions are variable as well. People with brain, lung, or colon cancer MIGHT have to leave scuba diving forever. Comparatively, individuals with other cancer types only require a medical clearance certificate to dive, provided that they’re healthy and have enough stamina.

7. Other Miscellaneous Problems

Musculoskeletal problems such as amputated legs and scoliosis can prevent you from scuba diving because you need the ability to move around, especially in colder waters with such heavy gear. Other such issues include disc prolapse, aseptic necrosis, and severe back pain.

You also need to be otolaryngological healthy to scuba dive. Since inner ears are inflexible like solids, they’re susceptible to rupturing as you go deeper. It’s also why you shouldn’t take scuba dives until sometime after inner ear surgery.

What should you not do after scuba diving?

As long as we’re on the topic of preventing scuba mishaps, here are the things you should not do after scuba diving.

1. Don’t go mountain climbing, skydiving, or other such activities

You must know by now that change in altitude has varying yet astounding impacts. Mountain climbing in the first 24 hours of scuba diving can even result in decompression sickness.

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The same goes for skydiving, zip-lining, and related activities. Stick to the ground for the first 24 hours and avoid changing the elevation further. Although, you can skydive (and mountain climb, etc.) prior to scuba diving.

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2. Don’t consume alcohol

Avoid alcohol (or at least don’t drink heavily) during the first 24 hours. Avoid any activity that causes dehydration because it also leads to decompression sickness.

3. Avoid massages right after diving

You may want that relaxing massage after a tiresome day of scuba diving. Still, you should ideally avoid it for the first 24 hours. And if you can’t avoid it, just get the normal one – deep tissue massages should be avoided at all costs. Deep tissue massages can mask the symptoms of decompression sickness and lead to a misdiagnosis.

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I got into extreme sports about 20 years ago and am a die-hard adrenaline junkie. Just like in business, I choose my outdoor adventures based on how much they scare me. My goal is to share the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of decades braving the unknown to encourage you to do the same.


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Elevated Adventurer is your go-to sherpa for all things adventure sports and outdoor exploration. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about your favorite outdoor sports from rock climbing and scuba to skydiving and extreme sports.

Scuba Diving With Health Issues

North Nusa Penida Mimpang diving

Let us start by saying that you don’t need to be a triathlon athlete to be able to go scuba diving. Children as young as 10 years can obtain their PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification. Nonetheless scuba diving is a sport that definitely requires good health. Some of you need to be extra vigilant, as there are a few conditions that will require an evaluation by a doctor before you can go diving. Here is a list of the most prominent health issues that should be taken into consideration before planning your scuba vacation.

Scuba Diving with asthma

In general asthmatics should not go diving if their asthma is uncontrolled. Asthma causes constriction of the airway which makes it hard to breath and you won’t be able to use your inhaler underwater, right? People who suffer from chronic or daily asthma symptoms should not dive. However, if symptoms are mild, it is possible to get a clearance from your doctor to show that you’re good to go scuba diving.

Scuba Diving with diabetes

Diabetes is another health issue that could limit your scuba diving options while diving in Bali. Diabetes is a health condition in which your body does not make insulin, or use the insulin you do make normally, depending on the type of diabetes you have. Scuba diving can become risky if you were to have a too low or too high blood sugar underwater. If you have frequent low blood sugar, or if your blood sugar is consistently high you shouldn’t dive. If your diabetes is well controlled it’s possible to go diving, just have a visit with your doctor to develop a plan.

Scuba diving with heart disease

Heart disease is associated with a variety of health conditions. When a person has gone through a heart surgery or a heart attack, it is recommended for them to wait for at least 6 months before going scuba diving. Your fitness level will need to be tested and approval from your Cardiologist given before diving. High blood pressure is a very common health issue that increases your risk for a stroke and heart attack. If your blood pressure is well controlled on your medications and diet, you should be fine to go diving. However, if your blood pressure is not controlled you should work with your doctor to get it under control before you go. If you have any history of heart disease that has required you to see a doctor/cardiologist, see them and get an evaluation before you plan your diving vacation.

Scuba diving with Pneumothorax

The health of your lungs is an important factor to consider when diving. Pneumothorax is a collapsed lung. This can happen to a person for a variety of reasons, including trauma. Sometimes it can happen spontaneously for a reason we don’t know. Your doctor will need to evaluate the cause of the pneumothorax and if you are completely healed, it might be possible to go diving.

This is just a very short list of health conditions that are quite common. It’s not an exhaustive list of every medical condition that could prevent you from diving. If you have a chronic illness, it is strongly recommended to see a doctor prior to your vacation to get a medical statement and approval for scuba diving.

Safety is our number one priority. That is why prior to any diving, every guest, who comes to our PADI dive resort in Padangbai, is asked to fill in a medical questionnaire and to discuss any health related concerns they might have. Scuba diving is a wonderful hobby. It should however be your priority too to want to make sure you will enjoy it properly and without risking your health.




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