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Scuba divers

Scuba divers
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Health tips for scuba divers

Scuba diving allows you to explore the marine environment with all its wonders and thrills. Canada’s coastline and lakes offer a rewarding diving experience, but of course the warmer waters of the tropics and subtropics are tempting, too. However, you do need to be aware that a different environment brings different risks. You will have learned about diving health as part of you training, but you may wish to refamiliarize yourself with the main points before your departure so that you can re-assess the risks at your destination.

You should let your travel health adviser know that you are planning to spend time in the water as this could have a bearing on the vaccination regime they recommend.

Fit to dive

Are you fit to dive? The activity can put a lot of strain on your body. Always consider your cardiac health before diving and get any concerns checked out by a medical professional. It is best not to dive if you are pregnant, or if you have:

  • epilepsy
  • lung problems, including severe asthma and emphysema
  • heart disease
  • neurological problems, including MS, Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease
  • perforated eardrum

Talk with your healthcare provider if you have a long-term condition and ask for letters about your condition that will help you to fill in your medical diving forms. This will also give you a chance to find out how your medications interact with the pressures you will experience while diving.

Problems caused by diving

It’s unlikely that you’ll experience any of these but some of the potential risks are:

  • decompression illness
  • ear barotrauma
  • injuries caused by marine hazards
  • hypothermia

Ear barotrauma which occurs when divers fail to equalize the pressure in their ears properly. Learn and practice the proper equalization techniques and if you cannot equalize, do not continue your descent. If you suffer vertigo, ear pain or ringing ears while diving, get medical help.

The most dreaded health risk linked to diving is decompression illness, sometimes called ‘the bends’. This results from a reduction in the ambient pressure surrounding the body and can happen when you’re surfacing after a dive. It can strike at random but risk factors include air travel too soon after a dive, particularly deep or long dives, very cold water, hard exercise at depth and rapid ascents.The illness encompasses two conditions; decompression sickness and arterial gas embolism.

Symptoms of decompression illness usually present up to 12 hours following a dive and ones to watch for include:

  • tiredness
  • itchy skin
  • joint pain
  • dizziness and ringing in the ears
  • numbness or tingling
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty urinating
  • confusion or amnesia
  • coughing up blood
  • collapse

Divers should seek professional advice about this dangerous condition. The treatment for decompression illness is recompression but a patient should be stabilized at a medical facility first and provided with oxygen. Later the patient may be transferred to the nearest hyperbaric chamber. It’s a good idea to know where the nearest treatment centre is. If it can only be accessed after a long journey, you may wish to adjust your diving plans.

Make sure you have beefed up your travel insurance in relation to scuba diving.