Scuba diving is a challenging activity that requires intense training and a strong physique. Specifically, divers need to have excellent control of their breathing patterns. But what if you have respiratory issues? Can you scuba dive with asthma? This is a tricky question, but it begs to be answered for the safety of affected individuals.
Can You Scuba Dive With Asthma?
Yes, but it requires a lot of testing and consultation with a doctor. You see, asthma is a very dangerous condition, much so if an attack occurs underwater. But to know whether you can dive or not with this problem, you should understand how it occurs in the first place.
During an asthma attack, the airway constricts, making it hard to draw air in and out of the lungs. This is why the person would have labored breathing.
Now, let’s put this in an underwater perspective. Divers breathe compressed air from a tank. At a specific depth, it takes technique to suck in air from the tank supply.
If your asthmatic lungs are exposed to this additional stress, a disaster could happen. We haven’t factored in the fact that diving also includes a lot of anxiety, fear, and adrenaline rush. All these three will increase the risk for asthmatic divers.
Take note that asthma attacks are often triggered by stress and pollutants. However, if yours is triggered by cold air and exercise, diving isn’t safe for you. Swimming against strong currents and breathing compressed air is a recipe for a massive underwater asthma attack. It’s a nightmare you wouldn’t want to live through – that is, if you get to ascend alive.
How Will I Know if I Can Dive With Asthma?
If you’re wondering whether it’s safe for you to dive despite having asthma, you should take an asthma stress test. A general practitioner can perform this test.
During the procedure, the doctor will try to simulate breathing conditions underwater. They will usually let you breathe compressed air while pedaling an exercise bike. Other doctors will use a different but similar method to this.
If you exhibit respiratory distress or a full-on asthma attack, your doctor will not give you clearance for diving. You should follow your doctor’s advice based on the results to prevent accidents.
For accurate results during the asthma stress test, avoid drinking caffeine and using salbutamol inhalers 48 hours before your appointment. You should also wear loose clothing suitable for cycling.
Precautions to Take
If you passed the asthma stress test and your doctor green-lit your dive, you should observe extreme precautions. Here are some of the things you should do:
✔️Check your peak flows regularly.
Peak flow refers to how well you can blow air out of the lungs. You should check your peak flow in the morning and evening of the scheduled dive. If your peak flow is 10% lower than your expected reading, you shouldn’t dive.
✔️Mind your last inhaler use
If you had to use a reliever inhaler in the past 48 hours, you should not dive. It’s likely that your peak flow is not at its best, and there’s a high chance you’ll experience an attack underwater.
✔️Check for symptoms
It’s important to listen to your body. If you have symptoms prior to the dive, you shouldn’t force yourself to take the plunge. Doing so will put you and your diving team at risk. You should allow yourself to recover first before taking a dive.
After the dive, you should ascend slowly than usual speeds, but make sure that you have calculated your air supply for this. A slow ascent will allow your lungs to adjust to the changing pressure. It will also prevent irritations and asthma attacks.
✔️Inform your divemaster of your condition
Before the dive, you should let your divemaster and dive buddy know of your condition. As long as you have a good peak flow reading and go-signal from your doctor, they will not consider it a big problem. This way, they can respond accordingly if you exhibit unusual behavior underwater.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What medical conditions can stop you from scuba diving?
A: The likes of coronary disease, epilepsy, and severe asthma can stop you from diving. It’s very dangerous to dive in these conditions. The pressure and stress of being underwater will surely take their toll on your health. Worse, it will put your life in danger.
Q: Can you scuba dive if you had asthma as a child?
A: An asthma stress test will confirm whether you’re suitable for diving if you had asthma before. Just know that a history of asthma puts you at risk of respiratory problems while underwater. If you haven’t had attacks for years, there’s a high chance that you can dive. Nevertheless, you should take the test just the same.
Q: Why people with asthma should not scuba dive?
A: Scuba diving is a dangerous sport. If your lungs aren’t in the best condition, you’ll be at a very high risk of airway obstruction and even death. This is why some dive shops and centers will ask asthmatic individuals to sign a waiver if they are keen to dive.
Q: Can you be a commercial diver if you have asthma?
A: It could be difficult to achieve commercial diver status if you have asthma. Many certifying organizations won’t issue certifications if you have long-term respiratory conditions. Also, you’ll have to pass more requirements in case the organization accepts your application.
Q: Is scuba diving bad for your lungs?
A: Scuba diving can cause barotrauma if you ascend too fast or if you didn’t perform decompression stops. But with proper training and experience, the risk of diving can be minimized.
Can you scuba dive with asthma? Yes, but with very specific conditions and precautions. Asthma and diving don’t often mix, so you have to be careful. Consulting your doctor and taking an asthma stress test is important for each dive to keep you safe. You should also listen to your body in case the symptoms occur.