Beat The Heat: Overheating While Scuba Diving

Beat The Heat: Overheating While Scuba Diving

Overheating while diving during summer

- Andy Lim

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.

Here's Cold Water Diving: Taking The Plunge Into The 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.

Overheating while diving leads to hyperthermia

Hyperthermia is more than just a warm feeling when diving - Credit: vseb

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.

Waiting long cause overheating while diving

Divers wearing a wetsuit and waiting to get in the water are prone to Hyperthermia - Credit: Christian Noval

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.

Cool drinks when overheating while diving

Cool drinks regulate the body’s temperature - Credit: Public Domain

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.

Shower to avoid overheating while diving

Getting wet to avoid overheating - Credit:Gina Smith

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.

About The Author

Thomas Grønfeldt Senger

Thomas is a Naui Instructor and has been diving in Australia, France, Egypt, Sweden, Indonesia, Iceland, and numerous other locations around the world.

8 Comments

  1. albert kok

    Hi
    A nice article.
    I never had problems with overheathing, even in the Red Sea.
    If ambient temperature is very high you probably wont need a full wet suit. So that partially solves the problem prior to thedive, when you have to gear up in full sunshine. Which you should try to avoid: always try to stay in the shade!

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Albert,

      No you are very right, often it’s actually a bigger issue in areas where there’s colder waters(or if you do tech and need a dry suit in the red sea), still shade and water goes a long way.
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Perry Forsberg

    Overheating can be a problem in summer in northern Europe. The air temperature is about 20 degrees and the water temeraturen goes down to 6 degrees. In order not to freeze in the cold waters we dive with a dry suit and warm underwear to keep warm at depth. Here it is important to rig all your equipment before you put on the underwear and dry suit. Dive you from the shore, it is smart to put down the equipment in the water, then you can gearup in the water while cooling down. Drinking plenty of water is good, but it can be a problem during the dive, you may need to urinate, this is remedied with a P valve.
    Now you can have a beautiful and eventful dive

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Ahh yes, a warm summer and taking on a full 8mm or a dry suit, it’s the prefect combo for overheating. And afterwards a long boat ride in a RIB – then you’re sure to feel a bit hot.
      Water, shade and gear on in the water is the solution, and of cause the p valve is a necessity.

  3. Tim Hooker

    YES! DIVE NAKED!

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Yes, but be aware of crab’s… :)

  4. David Tombs

    I dive with a drysuit in the UK, where you may imagine that Hyperthermia is not a risk. However, especially if sitting all day on a Rhib its a very real risk. The simplest way is to drink plenty, stay in the shade and not kit up too soon.

    Reply
  5. David Tombs

    No doubt bragging about your small snorkel.

    Reply

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