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Can You Scuba Dive With Asthma

Dangers And Risks Of Scuba Diving With Asthma

Snorkeling or Scuba Diving with Asthma and Precautions You Should Take

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:

  • Exercise induced: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Concerns For Divers And Asthma

5 Things To Avoid When Scuba Diving

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.

Read Also: Discuss The Pathophysiology Of Asthma

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

Also Check: Complications Of Asthmatic Bronchitis

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:

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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.

Also Check: Does Weight Gain Make Asthma Worse

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.

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.


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