Fit Diving: Contraindications To Scuba Diving

Fit Diving: Contraindications To Scuba Diving
What does it take to be Fit for Diving? – Wen-ho Yang

Are you really fit to dive?

And how can you really know what it means to be fit for diving?

We look at the “contraindication” and how it relates to fit diving:

When starting our diving, almost all organizations require participants on courses to sign a medical disclaimer, which includes whether or not the prospective student suffers from a long list of medical conditions.

If the answer is yes, either you won’t be able to dive at all, or you’ll need further medical examinations to determine your ability to dive.

And when discussing this with you, your instructor may use the term “contraindications”.

But what does that mean, and how does it affect your chances of becoming a diver?

What are contraindications anyway?

A bit broadly phrased, a contraindication is a state that limits you in some way from something.

It is most often used in the medical world, and doctors may speak of contraindications to certain treatments, such as some forms of surgery or even flu shots.

If you have an infection, this may be a contraindication to undergoing a specific form of surgery, as it may increase the risk of the procedure.

In diving, we use it to denote any medical condition that may mean that your diving isn’t safe for you.

And there are three main types of them, temporary, relative, and absolute.

Diving casualties can be avoided if we respect contraindications to diving
Diving casualties can be avoided if we respect contraindications to diving
Photo by: Roy Pedersen

Temporary contraindications

Temporary contraindications are medical conditions that prevent you from safely scuba diving, but only for a while, not forever.

These may include the common cold. A block nose and sinuses can prevent you from equalizing during descent and ascent, making diving unsafe.

But as we all know, colds go away after a while, and after that, you’ll most likely be able to dive again.

Pregnancy also counts as a temporary contraindication. Pregnant women shouldn’t dive, as we don’t completely understand how the increased pressure affects the unborn child.

However, as people don’t tend to be pregnant forever, it is very much a temporary condition, and afterward, the woman in question will most likely be able to prepare herself for fit diving again.

A blocked nose and sinuses are hindrances to successful equalizing
A blocked nose and sinuses are hindrances to successful equalizing
Photo by: Manamana

Relative contraindications

A relative contraindication is one that doesn’t go away, but at the same, doesn’t necessarily prevent you from diving (though it may).

The list here is quite long, but conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes are on it.

These conditions may prevent you from diving, depending on their severity and whether or not you are able to keep it in check with medication.

Here is a sample of The Dive Medical Questionnaire

If you have a relative contraindication you’ll need to see your doctor, and perhaps even a specialist, before undertaking diving, and may need regular checkups on your condition to ensure that it continues to be safe for you to dive.

Some even count old age as a relative contraindication, as it is not necessarily something that bares you from scuba diving, as long as you’re fit and healthy, and get regular health checks.

An old but fit and healthy diver can overcome contraindications to scuba diving
An old but fit and healthy diver can overcome contraindications to scuba diving
Photo by: Varina and Jay Patel

Absolute contraindications

These are contraindications that complete rule out scuba diving for you, most likely permanently.

This list has diminished over time, with more and more conditions moving from absolute to relative contraindications.

This includes diabetes and asthma, which used to rule out diving entirely, but today, with more knowledge and better medical treatments, scuba diving isn’t an impossibility.

Read Diving with Asthma to know the possibilities.

One condition that is often considered an absolute contraindication is epilepsy, at least if it requires medication.

In the UK, for instance, it is recommended that you have been off medication and seizure-free for a minimum of 5 years before undertaking scuba diving.

Other conditions include a history of certain heart and lung conditions as well as psychological conditions, such as a history of panic attacks.

Diving is generally a very safe sport, but it is not without risks.

So if you have any concerns about your health or ability to dive, always speak to a qualified diving instructor, your own physician, and possibly a specialist in diving medicine before undertaking scuba diving activities.

And even certified divers should get regular health checkups to ensure they continue a fit diving practice.


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A good explanation, thank you. Good to hear that old age is not a barrier. : )


Do you considere Deep vein thrombosis ( ancient, without sequellae) as a contraindication to scuba diving?

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