Can You Scuba Dive With Asthma

When certain outside factors trigger your Asthma, the muscles around your airway swell up and block normal breathing. Different patients are sensitive to different triggers according to the severity and type of their condition, but the most common ones are:

    When you breathe dry, cold air or physically exert yourself too much. Found in 90% of all Asthma patients. Chlorine in swimming pools can make you more vulnerable to it.
  • Allergy induced: When your lungs are sensitive to certain things like pollen or dust.
  • Weather & stress triggers: When cold, dry air or humidity trigger Asthma. Sudden panic or strenuous situations can be just as bad.

Youre exposed to all kinds of Asthma triggers underwater. The heavy equipment makes it harder to move around and you have to finish the dive before oxygen runs out- you put in more physical effort and risk triggering Asthma.

There are mold, pollen, aquatic plants and animals that can have tendencies that youre totally unfamiliar with- its too much of an allergy risk. Lastly, the water temperature could turn out to be too cold or even warm for your liking.

Keep all of these triggers in mind and put yourself in a divers shoes. Once youre 30 feet deep your breathing capacity drops to 70% of its surface performance. That feels like breathing with a clip pinching your nose, its more taxing.

Cutting to the chase, your risks are:

Scuba Diving With Asthma

Scuba diving is a popular activity but can be dangerous, especially if you have asthma.

Dr. David Lang is an asthma specialist at Cleveland Clinic and an avid diver. He says many people with asthma dive without complications, but it’s important to realize there may be an increased risk for respiratory problems.

“The complications of diving generally relate to the changing conditions of pressure and their influence on the behavior of gasses, particularly the gasses in your lung, so that asthmatics are likely at elevated risk,” Dr. Lang said.

Dr. Lang says certain conditions during scuba diving may flare-up asthma and cause airways to tighten, making it difficult to breathe, or even cause an asthma attack under water.

Diving conditions that may trigger asthma include sudden drops in temperature, exertion, breathing dry, compressed air from an oxygen tank, and fear or anxiety.

One research study states that people who have asthma triggered by cold, emotion, or exercise should avoid diving altogether.

Dr. Lang says people with asthma can dive safely, but it’s important to make sure your asthma is well controlled before taking the plunge.

“If you find you’re using your rescue inhaler more frequently, if you’re having more frequent daytime, nighttime symptoms, probably you should see your physician before you dive,” he said.

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A Final Word Of Caution

While it is not ideal for patients with asthma to scuba dive, those who still wish to do so must be extremely careful. They should be accompanied by a dive buddy or professional who can assist them in case an emergency arises to avoid any disasters.

Divers must be honest about their medical condition and get tested to ensure that their spirometry results are normal. They should also avoid deep diving because this will increase the risk of decompression diving. Shallow recreational diving is a safer option.

At the end of the day, its a personal choice, but make sure you put your safety first.

Don’t Miss: Really Bad Asthma

Parachuting Bungee Jumping Skydiving

Always consult your GP before taking part in these activities. Medical advice is available from the British Parachute Association.

As a general rule, if you have asthma you can parachute jump, bungee jump or skydive if:

  • your asthma is well controlled
  • cold air doesnt trigger your asthma
  • exercise doesnt trigger your asthma.

What you need to know:

  • You may not have access to your inhalers when you jump.
  • Its recommended you take your reliever inhaler up to an hour before the activity.
  • Taking steroids for your asthma can affect your bone density score and increase the risk of fractures. If youve been taking steroids for three months or more, you can ask your GP to refer you for a bone density scan to see if youre at greater risk of breaking a bone.

Related Questions Answered On Yanswers

Can You Scuba Dive With Asthma? Read This First!

Can someone with asthma scuba dive? Q: I have asthma and have always heard it can be more dangerous is this true? A: Here are the precautions for asmathatic divers:1). Exercise or cold induced asthmatics should not dive. 2). Asthmatics requiring rescue or reliever medication should not dive. Asthmatics on chronic maintenance bronchodilation and inhaled steroids are thought to be able to dive. Recommendations vary, however, and the BS-AC recommends that asthmatics should not dive if he/she has needed a therapeutic bronchodilator in the last 48 hours or has had any other chest symptoms.They feel that the asthmatic should not need more than occasional bronchodilators, i.e. daily usage would be a disqualifying factor, but inhaled steroids/cromoglycate/nedocromil are permissible. 3). Mild to moderate asthmatics with normal screening spirometry can be considered candidates for diving. 4). If an asthmatic has an attack, screening spirometry should be done and the individual should not dive until his airway function returns to normal. So, the answer to your question is..maybe. I believe the number of problems is like 1 in 250,000. Can you scuba dive with exercise induced asthma? Q: Can you scuba dive with exercise induced asthma? A: This question has been asked a number of times.The best answer is found at the Divers Alert Network site.http://www.dan.org/medical/faq/Default.aspx

What Guidelines Should I Follow To Go Scuba Diving With Asthma

If you have asthma, get medical clearance from your doctor before diving. All people who want to scuba dive need to have some swimming ability and maintain a certain level of strength and cardiovascular fitness.

According to the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society, doctors typically assess whether you can safely dive with asthma by determining:

  • how well your asthma is controlled
  • what your triggers are

While evaluating whether you can safely dive with asthma, your doctor will likely consider factors such as:

  • your asthma history
  • result of bronchial challenge test

Why Is Diving Not Recommended To Asthmatics

Diving can be risky business for people with respiratory problems. The gas composition and ambience is completely new for your body- theres a significant learning curve to breathing and moving with heavy equipment underwater. Youre surrounded by high levels of Nitrogen that can have dizzying effects and high water pressure that makes it harder to inhale the deeper you go.

It takes weeks of proper training and planning with trainers and your dive buddies to make sure you dont get decompression sickness or panic out of confusion underwater. The high water pressure and gas density some meters deep can make a person with healthy lungs have problems breathing properly.

That said, its not impossible for Asthmatics to dive if all prescribed precautions are followed, tests passed and reliable backups are put in place. If youre determined to experience the marine world and its wonders, Asthma wouldnt be that big of an obstacle especially if its mild intermittent.

Though knowing what youre signing up for and preparing for any possible risks is best before planning your diving trip.

Determining An Asthmatic’s Fitness To Dive

Doctors evaluate a prospective diver’s type of asthma, the frequency of asthma attacks, his medication, and his personal history of asthma.

In general, asthma that is triggered by exercise, cold or stress is an absolute contraindication to diving because each of these triggers may be encountered when diving.

Asthma that is triggered by allergens is usually not a contraindication to diving, as it is unlikely that divers will encounter these allergens when diving.

Divers taking medication to control their asthma are not necessarily prohibited from diving. The key is whether a person’s asthma is under control. Some medications that control asthma are approved for diving. A diving doctor will consider the kind of medication and how effective it is in preventing asthma attacks before allowing a person to dive.

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The Concerns For Divers And Asthma

The normal breathing pattern for divers is different from that of breathing on the surface, they breathe slowly and deeply underwater to get better breathing efficiency.

Some factors of concerns:

Divers breathe compressed air that has been filtered and dehumidified from cylinders. When the diver takes a breath of this air thru his regulator, the relief valve would first chill the air.

The diver inhales this cold dry air and if hyperventilation occurs during the descent, it could cause the divers airway to narrow. This could be a very high induced exercise activity to trigger asthma.

Another concern is, the sea water is cold and if the diver takes in a bit of seawater from a leaky mouthpiece, it can trigger an asthma attack.

Can You Scuba Dive With Asthma

Is it possible to dive with asthma? Should you? The answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second is that there is no consensus. In the past, the answer would have been a resounding NO! No doctor in their right mind would have cleared their patients for diving if they have a history of asthma. Nowadays, the accepted opinion is beginning to change and having asthma is no longer an absolute contraindication as it once was.

In order to get the doctors approval to dive with asthma, potential divers must be evaluated to determine the severity of their asthma, their fitness to dive, and what kind of medication, if any, is required. The doctor will consider the history of the attacks, the type of asthma it is, how easy it is to trigger an attack, and its severity. If you have asthma and want to scuba dive, you must first consult your doctor and undergo an evaluation before heading out into the water.

Ear And Sinus Barotrauma

Ear and sinus barotrauma are common injuries for divers that can be debilitating. Barotrauma occurs when the body is unable to equalize pressure within a gas-filled area, such as the middle ear. Ambient pressure changes during ascent and descent, and the difference in pressure can result in damage to body tissues. Types of barotrauma include:

  • Middle ear barotrauma, also known as middle ear squeeze: Occurs when the Eustachian tube does not equalize pressure in the middle ear, allowing volume to decrease. Most common injury for first time divers. Symptoms include ear pain, vertigo, and possible conductive hearing loss.
  • Inner ear barotrauma: Often occurs in relation to middle ear barotrauma, by which the diver forcefully uses a Valsalva maneuver to equalize pressure in the middle ear. May also occur during rapid ascent. Symptoms can include ear ringing , vertigo, and hearing loss.
  • Sinus barotrauma, also known as sinus squeeze: Occurs when nasal congestion prevents sinus pressure from equalizing during descent. Symptoms may present as facial pain, nosebleed, and increased pressure with further descent.

Depending on the type of barotrauma being experienced, treatment may involve:

  • Oral steroids or antibiotics

What Are The Risks Of Scuba Diving With Asthma

Diving always comes with some risks, such as drowning or developing . But diving is also thought to expose people with asthma to several risk factors for developing bronchospasms and asthma attacks.

Bronchospasms are a tightening of the muscles that line the large airways in your lungs, called bronchi. They can lead to obstruction of your airways and air trapping.

When you ascend from diving, the air in your lungs expands due to changes in pressure before you breathe it out.

If you have a blockage from inflammation or tightening in your lungs or airways, trapped air can cause a rupture of your lungs that leads to potentially fatal conditions such as collapsed lungs or air embolism. This happens when air bubbles enter your blood.

If a diver has an asthma attack underwater, they may not have enough energy to come back to the surface and could drown.

Other respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic lung disease, can also cause air trapping.

Getting Cleared To Dive With Asthma

Scuba Diving with Asthma, Divers Alert Network

If you have asthma or have had it in the past, even if it was when you were a child, you should get a check up done preferably by a diving doctor. A diving physician will consider various factors when determining if you are fit to dive.

For example, if your asthma is triggered by an allergen, such as dust or pollen, then chances are good that you will be cleared to dive. Depending on the allergen , it may not contradict diving since it is unlikely youll encounter it underwater, however you still need a doctor to evaluate and clear you before you head out for a dive.

On the other hand, if your asthma is triggered by exercise, stress, or the cold, then you will need to pass some tests, such as a Peak Flow Test, to prove you can perform adequately underwater.

It is possible that the asthma medication you take can keep your asthma under control enough that the doctor clears you for diving. Some medications are approved for use while diving, and the doctor will recommend when you should take it and how much before diving to prevent an attack while youre underwater.

Asthma is not normally a life-threatening condition, however if you decide to go scuba diving, it can lead to some deadly scenarios. If there is just one thing you take from this article, its that you should follow your doctors advice if you want to scuba with asthma. If your doctor says no, then too bad. Various medicine authorities recommend you follow this checklist:

Why Is Asthma So Dangerous For Scuba Diving

There are few restrictions on who can scuba dive, to the point that almost anyone can scuba dive if they put in enough effort. Yet if you have asthma, you may not be allowed to dive. How come?

Physical exertion, stress, anxiety, and the cold are major causes of asthma attacks. Should an attack occur, the asthmatics airways may contract so much that breathing becomes nearly impossible.

The diver may also panic and try to ascend too quickly, putting them at risk of decompression sickness and, more immediately, lung over-expansion. As you can imagine, if that were to occur underwater, it could lead to a deadly result. Scuba diving is generally high risk for an asthmatic.

To counteract this, the diver with asthma needs to take their medicine which comes in the form of an aerosol inhaler. Unfortunately, it is not possible to take it underwater, so the diver must somehow endure long enough to safely ascend and reach the surface before taking the medicine. It will be difficult to stay calm enough to do this, and the diver may lose consciousness, which only adds to the problem.

On top of that, asthma attacks are often worsened by inhaling cold, compressed, dry air. We have no choice but to breathe compressed air underwater because the pressure of the surrounding water cannot be avoided. This pressure also makes it hard for us to inhale and exhale because our lungs are also affected by it. Thus, the deeper the dive, the more difficult it becomes to breathe.

Keeping Your Asthma Well Controlled

If youre planning to take part in an extreme or adventure sport, its important to make sure youre physically fit. This includes making sure your asthma is well controlled.

The best way to do this is by:

  • continuing to take your preventer medicines as prescribed to reduce the inflammation in your airways
  • making sure you have an asthma review every year, so your GP or asthma nurse can review your medicines, make sure youre taking your inhalers in the right way, and check your peak flow. They can also check how youre doing generally.
  • using a written asthma action plan. Make sure yours is up to date so you know what to do if you get symptoms. If you don’t already have one, and fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse.

Top tips:

  • Dont forget to make sure your travel insurance covers whatever activity youre planning, and check if there are any safety restrictions or rules with the organiser of the activity.
  • Always have your reliever inhaler with you, whatever exercise you do.
  • Make sure youve got enough reliever medicine with you, especially if youre travelling.

How Does Diving Trigger Asthma

Asthma attacks and wheezing can be set off by a variety of factors. Because divers have a long exposure to cold air and seawater, asthmatics sensitive to these should avoid diving. Others with controlled and mild asthma can often continue like non-asthmatic divers.

Most common diving triggers:

  • Cold, dry air in the scuba tanks. Gas in a scuba tank is dryer than normal air to prevent corrosion of the tanks and it becomes colder while diving. Studies of athletes in cold conditions have shown an increase in breathing spasms and asthma symptoms 2. The compressed air also requires more effort to inhale through a regulator making normal breathing difficult for some asthmatics.
  • Physical exertion depending on the dive. Most dives are not very physical, but some locations with strong currents and open water swells will need more effort. Exercise is a common trigger for asthmatic patients 4.
  • Spikes in adrenaline or anxiety. Even the most experienced scuba divers have had moments where they have been anxious or unsure under the water. If something on the dive doesnt go as planned, a spike in adrenaline will cause irregular breathing and can trigger asthma 4.
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If your asthma was ever caused by similar stimuli in the past, you will want to be cautious when you consider scuba diving.

There are additional allergens and irritants that are less likely on a dive. However, these can set off wheezing and breathing difficulties beforehand which create issues once underwater.

Scuba diving with asthma: How to stay safe when you dive

When scuba diving you need to take all necessary precautions to stay safe and enjoy your dive. For asthmatics this requires extra steps to make sure they are clear to dive.

For a long time, doctors thought that asthmatics couldn’t dive at all. Scuba diving involves certain risks and these can be more serious for asthmatics. However, with more medical knowledge about treating and managing asthma, this view has changed.

Asthmatics can scuba dive, but first, they should discuss their limits and triggers with a diving doctor. Diving can trigger asthma in a few ways and cause pulmonary barotrauma and other serious health complications. Those with mild to moderate asthma who know their triggers should be able to dive.

girl close up scuba diving

Why is diving dangerous for asthmatics?

Asthma creates inflammation in the lungs and various triggers will make this worse. When asthmatics come into contact with a trigger the lungs produce more mucus and constrict airways. When this happens air gets trapped in the lungs and reduces pulmonary function. The go-to treatment for this is the use of an inhaler. These are bronchodilators that relax the lungs so the air can escape, but are not available while diving 1 .

If an asthmatic has a bronchospasm, before or during a dive, air can get trapped in their lungs. Then, as the diver ascends, the trapped air will expand as the water pressure decreases. The air can expand so much that the lung will rupture, causing a pulmonary barotrauma (PBT) 2 .

From here, a diver could experience other health complications. One of the most severe being an arterial gas embolism, when air bubbles get into the bloodstream. Even shallow diving and small pressure changes can cause complications and PBT 3 .

While these risks are serious and divers should take precautions, there are many who have mild to moderate asthma and don’t have any trouble diving. Real-world observations of asthmatic divers have shown very few complications during dives. This suggests there isn’t a significantly higher risk of PBT or decompression sickness for these divers 3 . Because of this asthma doesn’t exclude people from recreational scuba like it used to.

As long as divers discuss the risks with their doctor and understand their asthma, many are able to dive without any issues 2 .

diver photographing sea snake on the reef

How does diving trigger asthma?

Asthma attacks and wheezing can be set off by a variety of factors. Because divers have a long exposure to cold air and seawater, asthmatics sensitive to these should avoid diving. Others with controlled and mild asthma can often continue like non-asthmatic divers.

Most common diving triggers:

  • Cold, dry air in the scuba tanks. Gas in a scuba tank is dryer than normal air to prevent corrosion of the tanks and it becomes colder while diving. Studies of athletes in cold conditions have shown an increase in breathing spasms and asthma symptoms 2 . The compressed air also requires more effort to inhale through a regulator making normal breathing difficult for some asthmatics.
  • Physical exertion depending on the dive. Most dives are not very physical, but some locations with strong currents and open water swells will need more effort. Exercise is a common trigger for asthmatic patients 4 .
  • Spikes in adrenaline or anxiety. Even the most experienced scuba divers have had moments where they have been anxious or unsure under the water. If something on the dive doesn’t go as planned, a spike in adrenaline will cause irregular breathing and can trigger asthma 4 .

If your asthma was ever caused by similar stimuli in the past, you will want to be cautious when you consider scuba diving.

There are additional allergens and irritants that are less likely on a dive. However, these can set off wheezing and breathing difficulties beforehand which create issues once underwater.

Additional triggers before a dive:

  • If you are diving in a new location or during certain times of the year allergies will be more prevalent.
  • Smoke and air pollution from your location can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Some medicines like aspirin can be triggers and you should avoid them before diving 4 .

Asthmatic divers should be aware of their personal triggers and avoid dive locations that have a higher exposure. Plan your dives to include information on where you are diving and how it will affect you.

Don’t get overwhelmed when planning for your next dive. Read our full guide here.

scuba diving equipment at the pool

Smith Cove Beach, Grand Cayman

Doctors Approval

Before taking a dive course, you will need to fill out a medical release. If you have asthma you will need to show that you have a doctor’s approval for the course to continue.

You should never lie on these forms to make it easier to dive. If any emergencies occur it will be more difficult for the dive instructor to get you the help you need if they don’t know your conditions. If you have dive insurance lying will also cancel out their coverage.

Find out more about what dive insurance covers and pick the best plan for you in our article here.

See a doctor specialized in diving medicine before picking your dive course to save yourself time. They will clear you for diving by evaluating your specific contraindications. Clearance is on a case-by-case basis depending on your triggers and how often you have asthma symptoms. Some conservative doctors recommend you not dive if there have been any asthma symptoms in the last five years 2 .

There are also tests they can run to determine your personal risk.

Spirometry is one of the most common tests. By inhaling and exhaling doctors measure fev1 and fvc, the amount of air a person can exhale in one second. This test diagnoses asthma and its severity. Those with mild to moderate asthma are often considered safe to dive 3 .

Another test is Peak Flow (PF). This test measures how open your airways are by how fast your expiratory flow is. People with asthma will show variations in the results. Your doctor will decide if the variations are at a dangerous level or not. Generally, you should complete this test in the days before you dive to monitor if your airflow drops 1 .

Some doctors recommend you complete a stress test or exercise test. These will measure your reaction to physical exertion, sometimes while breathing through an oxygen tank. From this, your doctor can better decide if scuba diving will be a trigger for you 1 .

Tips for diving with asthma

Before you dive, avoid smoking and exercise more to help lessen your asthma symptoms. Smoking makes asthma worse and hurts your lung function. While exercising more will strengthen your lungs and reduce symptoms caused by weight 5 . These tips are helpful for all divers to be safer and control their breathing better underwater.

As you get ready to dive, you should take extra precautions in the days before to avoid triggers and manage your asthma. The UK Diving Medical Committee recommends you do the following 6 :

  • Do a PF test twice a day for three days leading to your dive. Your results should be normal 48 hours before diving.
  • Don’t dive if you had to use a reliever inhaler within 48 hours.
  • Don’t dive if you have any asthma symptoms or difficulty breathing beforehand.
  • Ascend slowly and within your dive computer’s limits.
  • Consider using asthma medication, such as a reliever inhaler half an hour before a dive.

If there are any changes in your asthma leading up to a dive you should revisit your doctor to make sure you are still safe to continue.

Additionally, the Divers Alert Network (DAN) recommends you alert your divemaster and dive buddy of your condition. Even if you are not taking a course, you should make others aware of your asthma each time you dive. In the case of an emergency or unexpected situation, they can work with you to surface safely.

Conclusion

Asthmatics have an increased risk of PBT and complications while diving. However, those with mild to moderate symptoms are still considered safe to dive if they take the right precautions. Scuba divers should assess their limits with their doctor and decide if diving is safe for them. Divers should know their asthma triggers and avoid them before a dive to stay safe and relaxed.

References

K. Teztlaff, C. Muth, L. Waldhauser, ‘A Review of Asthma and Scuba Diving’ , 39 ( 7 ): Journal of Asthma 2002 ; 557 – 566; ↩ ↩ 2 ↩ 3 ↩ 4

Y. Adir, A. Bove, ‘Can asthmatic subjects dive?’ , 25 ( 140 ): European Respiratory Review 2016 ; 214 – 220; https://err.ersjournals.com/content/25/140/214 ↩ ↩ 2 ↩ 3

(2019).What Causes or Triggers Asthma?. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Retrieved April, 2021, https://www.aafa.org/asthma-triggers-causes/ ↩ ↩ 2 ↩ 3

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(May, 2015). 7 Tips to keep your asthma under control. Breathe the Lung Association. Retrieved April , 2021 from ↩

Can You Scuba Dive With Asthma?

For years, asthma and scuba diving together have been a long-standing controversial topic among the dive professions and the dive medical community.

So, the big question ‘Can you dive with asthma’? The answer is yes BUT there are some things you need to understand first. You are at a higher risk of an accident or injury when diving but as long as the asthma is controlled you can dive.

This article will explain the concerns of asthma for divers who are asthmatic and how to control it when scuba diving, and includes a great video.

Table of Contents

What Is Asthma and How Can It Affect The Diver With Asthma

Asthma Inflamed Bronchial Tube

In case you’re not familiar with asthma, asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways and makes breathing difficult.

The air passages are red and swollen, causing a temporary narrowing and prevents a good flow of oxygen to the lungs which result in symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and shortness of breath. If it’s severe enough, the individual can have the inability to speak along with a decreased activity.

Asthma is not an ongoing response and it can suddenly happen when triggered by a response to certain stimuli causing an asthma attack. The triggers are different for each person. It can be caused by:

  • Airborne Substances. Dust, pollen mold spores, cold, dryness
  • Respiratory Infections. Colds
  • Airborne Pollutants. Smoke
  • Certain Medications. Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Aleve, Motrin, Advil
  • Cold air *
  • Physical activity that can induce asthma
  • Stress, panic
  • Preservatives and sulfites used in certain foods and beverages like beer and wine.

My Story

In 2007, I was working for a dive shop in Grand Turk and booked a dive for a family of divers who came from a cruise ship. I had them all sign the standard Diver Medical Questionnaire form which includes the question of ‘Have you ever had or do you currently have asthma, or wheezing with breathing, or wheezing with exercise?’. All dive participants specifically wrote ‘No’ and signed the document. About 8 minutes into the dive, one of the divers panicked and quickly started to ascend, fortunately, the tour guide (Owner and professional Dive Instructor) prevented him from doing a quick ascent, and together and slowly they made their way to the surface.

This diver at the surface was yelling he has asthma and said he couldn’t breathe.

Thankfully, he was able to get his bronchodilator once on board the dive boat. Of course, the dive was aborted.

Scuba Diver Medical Questionnaire

The Concerns For Divers And Asthma

The normal breathing pattern for divers is different from that of breathing on the surface, they breathe slowly and deeply underwater to get better breathing efficiency.

Some factors of concerns:

Divers breathe compressed air that has been filtered and dehumidified from cylinders. When the diver takes a breath of this air thru his regulator, the relief valve would first chill the air.

The diver inhales this cold dry air and if hyperventilation occurs during the descent, it could cause the diver’s airway to narrow. This could be a very high induced exercise activity to trigger asthma.

Another concern is, the sea water is cold and if the diver takes in a bit of seawater from a leaky mouthpiece, it can trigger an asthma attack.

What Happens If Your Lungs Constrict Underwater?

When a diver starts to descend underwater, he/she is faced with the pressure of the water which is much denser and heavier than that of air. A diver that succumbs to an asthma attack underwater is experiencing a decrease of airflow going in and out of the lungs and the normal diver underwater breathing pattern ‘breathe slowly and deeply’ and exhale fully is now compromised. The diver is not able to get enough air from his regulator let alone expel the air out.

Your lungs are now constricted underwater and you have 2 problems. First of all, it will be difficult to breathe properly underwater. You will experience tightness in the chest and buildup of carbon dioxide.

Second, you now have gas trapped in your lungs and not able to release it and so you face the risk of lung overexpansion injury. The good news is the occurrence of this happening is not often and so because of that, asthma is not often associated with lung overexpansion injury, even severe injuries or death. Instead, the DAN (Divers Alert Network) studies show divers who succumb to asthma underwater, will find they are prone to losing consciousness because they are so much out of breath, or panic, or become incapacitated. This is the biggest issue with divers when a trigger hits causing an asthma attack.

This is why even as recently as five years ago, people who have asthma and have had a desire to learn to scuba dive and divers with asthma have been denied the pleasures of scuba diving.

Thanks To Modern Medication

Asthma Treatment

Studies show there are many divers who are asthmatic and they seem fine and now with modern medication which stabilizes the lung functions such as cortisone inhalation. This reduces inflammation in the inner lining of the lung’s bronchial tubes opening the airway.

Bronchodilators, open the airway passages and are used by many people who have asthma.

With these products now available through your family physician, it seems the concerns for divers who are asthmatics are been alleviated to a big extent, however, the concern is not whether you have asthma, but how well the asthma is controlled.

As long as the airway passages are open, normality in the lung functions and the response to exercise prevents the lungs from closing up then you won’t be denied the joys of scuba diving.

Now just because you have the certification to dive doesn’t mean you can dive on a certain day. Just like any other diver who has a head cold, sensitively to airborne pollutants and substances or not feeling well. You should not dive.

Peak Flow Meter

Asthma Peak Flow Meter

A relatively inexpensive, handheld portable device, the peak flow meter also recommended by DAN (Divers Alert Network), is perfect for people who have asthma. You can easily get it off the counter at larger pharmacies. The medication is prescribed by your physician. The device measures how well the air moves out from your lungs.

You want to use the device as needed and 2 days after your dive, monitor your airflow by blowing into it. If there is a 10% deviation, meaning your airflow function is down then your lungs are not functioning as well as they should be. It means you don’t dive and you should use your medication.

It’s important to meet with your family physician on an annual basis to follow up on your asthma condition.

The best part is, everything is in your control as a diver and as long as you are sensible, the response of NO will no longer be applied.

Dive Physician

Want the best of both worlds? Going to a dive physician is a great option, they already understand the physiology of diving in addition to the issues of asthma and the real importance of being able to control asthma when scuba diving. Asthma consultation and treatment and regards to diving theory!

Controlling The Asthma Effect

The controlling the asthma effect is how long the medication would last once you’ve used it. Cortizones and bronchodilators are long-acting and normally will last up to 12 hours or more but if you use Ventolin inhalers they will only work for about 4 hours so there is a very good possibility it will not be effective during your dive. This is one of the reasons why people with asthma were rejected from diving.

Control the asthma effect… you can dive!

How Deep Should You Dive If You Are Asthmatic?

If your lungs function normally there is no depth restriction, other than as recreational divers, the depth recommended is no deeper than 130 feet/40 meters.

Whether you have a medical issue or not, you would still need to consider the what ifs. In other words, if you had an asthma attack underwater, will you have the time to do safety stop(s) that are long depending on your depth. You certainly don’t want to be spending 90 minutes decompression time. As recreational divers, you don’t want to be doing decompression stops anyway. Be a conservative diver always, whether you had a medical issue or not.

Conclusion

By now you already know the answer is yes, you can dive as long as the asthma is controlled. Be a conservative diver and if you don’t feel well for whatever the reason may be, don’t dive. Don’t take chances or risks… it’s your life and your decisions affect the outcome of your life.

Thank you for reading and if you have any stories to share that can help the readers, including myself, I really would like to hear from you. Comments and questions are welcomed, please put them in the Comment Box below.

Source https://www.knowyourasthma.com/can-you-scuba-dive-with-asthma/

Source https://outsiderview.com/scuba-diving/scuba-diving-with-asthma/

Source https://joyofscubadiving.com/can-you-scuba-dive-with-asthma

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