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What You Need to Know When Diving with Asthma?

Asthma can be a real party pooper, especially when it comes to outdoor activities and sports. This health condition may have restrictions but people with mild and well-controlled asthma can still have fun.

What is asthma?

Scuba Diving with Asthma

Asthma is a disease that affects a person’s lungs (characterized by the narrowing of the breathing tubes or bronchi as a reaction to various stimuli). The individual may experience breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. It’s often a long-term disease that may affect children and adults.

This health condition may be attributed to different factors such as:

  • Genetic – Family history of asthma (tendency to run in the family)
  • Environmental – Air pollution, contaminants, allergens, and other atmospheric irritants
  • Occupational – Exposure to something at work (e.g. irritants such as chemicals, dust, and debris)

Is it possible to dive when you have asthma?

For many years, asthma has been considered a contraindication to diving. In this modern age, some diving societies allow individuals with well-controlled asthma to experience the incredible underwater world as long as they are fully aware of the relative risks.

If you’re diving in Dubai and you have asthma, make sure that you consult with a physician before you go scuba diving. The dive operator can send you a course medical statement which your doctor is required to sign and stamp as proof that you’re allowed to go scuba diving. Make sure that you bring your inhaler on the boat and it should be ready to use in case of an attack. Alert the dive instructor and fellow divers about the location of your inhaler and any potential complications.

It’s also important that you know how well your asthma is controlled and aware of what your triggers are. Please be reminded that if your asthma attacks are induced by exercise or cold, there is a possibility that you will not be allowed to dive. Individuals with a history of sudden asthma attacks may also not be considered good candidates for diving.

What are the risks when diving with asthma?

The primary concern for an asthmatic diver is experiencing an asthma attack while underwater. The individual might not have enough energy to resurface which could result in drowning.

Another scary scenario is when the narrowed airways trap the gas in the lungs. As the diver makes an ascent, the air expands. If the trapped gas expands quicker than it can be exhaled, the lung can rupture, a condition called arterial gas embolism (AGE). The diver can experience stroke-like symptoms that can push the person to panic and make a rapid ascent. The air can make its way to the bloodstream until it reaches the brain which can be fatal.

Asthmatic individuals are also prone to reduced exercise capability. Unlike on land, where you can take a rest when you get tired, it’s not possible to pause and catch one’s breath while underwater.

Dive with caution

If you are asthmatic, be cautious when diving. Engage in scuba diving when it is well-controlled. Do not attempt to dive if you’re experiencing breathing problems or sudden outbursts of symptoms.

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