Most people probably think that asthma is a definite contraindication for diving. Divers with perfectly healthy lungs often struggle with underwater breathing; why would an asthmatic even dream of trying it?
Note: Before going diving with asthma you shall always get consent form a Licensed Physician, preferably who specializes in asthma or diving.
It has been said a million times and it remains true in this instance; nothing is impossible. Yes, asthmatics are at a higher risk of accident or injury while scuba diving, but they are not completely incapable.
Just like any scuba diver planning each and every dive, the individual health of the person must be taken into consideration before determining whether scuba diving is a safe option. For the most part, those in good physical shape who struggle only with asthma can learn to dive safely.
Here are a few things to be aware of when diving with asthma as well as the necessary steps to take to determine whether diving is right for you.
Why is Diving with Asthma Dangerous?
To fully understand the situation at hand, you must first understand why asthma causes such serious complications when diving.
Asthma causes the airway to become constricted in response to certain situations or stimuli. Extreme stress and anxiety are major causes of asthma attacks. Essentially the person’s airways constrict to such a point that breathing is nearly impossible as air is unable to move throughout the lungs. The person has to work extremely hard to be able to inhale and exhale.
Now consider the circumstances you are in while diving. Divers breathe compressed air, which has a much denser surface and takes more effort to breathe. Once you reach depth, the effort it takes to breathe can be compared to sucking honey through a straw.
Combine the increased resistance with an asthmatic’s already constricted lungs and you have a potential recipe for disaster. The risk is heightened by the fact that diving has a certain amount of adrenaline and fear that goes along with it; these cause the heart to beat faster and breathing to become heavier.
Now combine an asthmatic’s constricted airway, an atmosphere that makes breathing a major effort, and hyperventilation from excitement and fear. The results for an unprepared diver could be catastrophic.
Assessing one's diving suitability
Diving for everyone, not just asthmatics, all comes down to education and preparation. If you are completely prepared and confident, there is no reason why asthma should keep you from a scuba diving life; or at least giving it a try.
With the proper physical health, training, and preparation, asthmatics absolutely can still dive. They just need to be sure that they are familiar with the potential risks and that they dive with a very experienced diver who can help if the need should arise.
Here are a few of the major considerations taken when determining whether an asthmatic is fit to dive:
- Major Triggers- if the person in question has asthma that is triggered mostly by allergens and other physical things, these do not contraindicate diving. Allergen-triggered asthma is absolutely not a risk while diving since there is no contact with them.
- If the asthma is triggered by physical activity, it is recommended that you do not dive since it requires a great amount of physical exertion.
- Lung Function- Doctors will use several methods of testing your lung capacity. Some of these tests include; Spirometry, Peak Flow Test, and exercise tests.
Once your doctor has done a full evaluation, he or she will inform you as to whether they believe you are fit for diving.
So What’s the Verdict?
Diving comes with a list of possible risks and dangers for anyone and that list is multiplied for those with asthma.
The decision of whether to dive or not is a personal one that should be made between you and your doctor. In general, if your health aside from the asthma is good overall and stress is not a major trigger for you, diving can be something that you enjoy time and time again.
Always go to a licensed diving doctor if in doubt.