Beat The Heat: Overheating While Scuba Diving
How to deal with the heat while scuba diving in the summer!
Summer is here, and with it, many people take to the water to swim, surf, and our all-time favorite: scuba diving.
But with summer also often comes higher temperatures (one of the motivators for heading to the shore in the first place), and the risk of overheating while diving, or hyperthermia.
Here’s how to avoid it.
What is Hyperthermia
Most people know the term hypothermia as an expressions for being very, very cold.
In fact, in Greek, hypo- means “below”, and thermia means temperature, as in the body’s temperature.
So hypothermia is when the body’s core temperature is below what it should be, and is a serious conditions that goes beyond simply being cold.
Hyper means “above”, so hyperthermia means the opposite of hypothermia, and refers to when the body’s core temperature is above its normal, healthy level.
And again, it is a potentially serious conditions that goes beyond simply feeling warm.
Effects of Hyperthermia
Hyperthermia happens when the body’s core temperature exceeds its normal 100.9°F/38,3°C.
And even a rise to 104°F/40°C can be life threatening, due to organ failure.
But before that, sluggishness, erratic behavior, convulsions, and loss of consciousness can all occur.
Learn more about Fit Diving: Contraindications To Scuba Diving.
Hyperthermia and Scuba Divers
Normally, the body is very good at regulating its temperature. But if we put too much pressure on our internal thermostat, we may risk hyperthermia setting in.
And because divers often head for warm, tropical areas in pursuit of their favorite activity, it is a risk we need to take seriously.
Have you tried Liveaboard Diving?
And because the oceans are rarely as warm as the air, and because it transport heat much more effectively than the air, we often need to wear various forms of exposure protection, even in the tropics.
Because of this, most hyperthermia cases with scuba divers happen while on the boat or shore and often because of overheating while wearing a wetsuit and waiting to get in the water.
Avoiding Hyperthermia While Diving
Luckily, there are a few simple things that we can do to prevent overheating.
Drink and Sweat
Sweating is our one of our body’s primary defenses against overheating. By sweating and having that sweat evaporate on our skin, our body cools itself. So make sure you have plenty to sweat, and that means drinking enough.
Learn more about Fitness And Diving: Getting Fit For Scuba Diving.
Drinking cool drinks can also help regulate the body’s temperature. Extremely cold drinks do tend to give some people stomach cramps, so if you experience that, make sure the drinks are a bit more temperate. And don’t believe the old wives tale that a hot drink helps your body “cope” with the heat.
Wait For It…
Probably the most important advice is to wait until the last minute to change into your wetsuit. Put together all your gear and get ready for the dive, but leave the wetsuit until the last possible moment.
Here's more about Wetsuits: Why You Need To Buy Your Own.
And even then, consider only putting it on your legs and torso, and leaving your torso exposed to cool you. Once you’re ready to put on your scuba unit, and only then, do you put it all the way on and zip up.
Get Wet To Avoid Overheating
As soon as you’re in your wetsuit, get in the water as soon as possible. Unless there’s a current or some other reason, getting in the water and waiting for your buddy or buddies there is a much better choice than waiting on land.
If for some reason you’re delayed in getting to the water, pour some water over yourself, and inside your suit, to cool you off a bit.
Stay In The Shade
With our without (but especially with) a wetsuit on, try and get out of the sun.
The difference in temperature between sun and shade can be many degrees, so finding a breezy, shady spot to gear up is definitely preferable.
Taking a few precautions can go a long way with preventing hyperthermia.
But if it does set in, you need to act quickly.
More on what to do to treat hyperthermia in a later article.