Asthma is a respiratory disorder that causes spasm attacks in the bronchi of the lungs – making it difficult to breathe. It’s often related to an allergic reaction or other types of sensitivity. The symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, a tightening in the chest, coughing, and wheezing. At its worst, this can be life-threatening.
So, can asthmatics scuba dive? Find out more here…
Getting a license
Before scuba diving with asthma, you’ll need to get consent from a licensed physician who specialises in scuba asthma. Your personal health will be taken into account to ensure this is a safe activity for you. The key factor is whether your asthma is under control.
Physical tests are essential to determine the fitness of your lungs – and establish that there isn’t any weakness or poor condition. There are regulated investigations that must be carried out to evaluate lung health and these tests to see if you can scuba dive with asthma include:
Bronchial Agitation – saline water is aspirated into the lungs which are then tested by variables for lung reaction
Peak Flow – a simple peak flow meter may be used to get results from breathing into a machine – it measures how fast you can blow air out of your lungs and how open the airways are. If the measurement doesn’t vary this indicates that the asthma is controlled
Spirometry – evaluating lung function by inhaling completely and exhaling for as long and as hard as possible into this machine
Exercise – using the results from the spirometry or peak flow tests to establish before and after exercise statistics
Post-Bronchial Dilator – assessing the effectiveness of asthma-controlling medication which can then be approved for diving
Asthma stress test – this test will be carried out after a summary from your GP has been studied. The test recreates the conditions you may experience underwater whilst breathing compressed air from a Scuba tank whilst pedalling on an exercise bike. Lung test function will be carried out and analysed before and after to detect whether an asthma attack may be triggered by diving.
Other major considerations that will be taken into account include what triggers a major asthma attack. If this is allergen related it isn’t considered a risk. However, if the tests prove that the attack is bought on by physical activity you will probably be advised not to go ahead.
Pre-Asthma Stress Test Guidelines
For an asthma stress test you’ll need to:
Avoid caffeine in any form on the test morning
Bring your current asthma medication
Not use a salbutamol inhaler 48 hours prior to the test
Wear clothing and footwear suitable for cycling
Sign a declaration to say you consent to the test
Understanding the Dangers
During an asthma attack airways contract reducing the diameter of the breathing tubes. This results in the air being unable to move in and out of the lungs efficiently. This, in turn, leads to resistance in breathing and increased effort inhaling and exhaling.
Divers breathe compressed air which is denser than surface air. The deeper a diver goes the denser the air breathed becomes – if an asthma attack was to happen at depth sufficient air may not be able to reach the lungs. Underwater exercise can’t immediately be stopped – nor can an inhaler be used.
As a diver comes to the surface lungs expand in response to the decrease in water pressure and expanding air escapes through the airways during exhalation. A mild asthma attack would cause contracted airways to trap air in the lungs – with the potential risk of decompression illness.
Asthma and scuba diving is possible for some – but many factors need to be taken into account for maximum safety. Education and preparation with the proper training can make you fit for diving if you’ve passed all of the aforementioned tests. The overall decision will be down to your GP and you.
If you generally experience good health and stress isn’t a major trigger, scuba diving can be a most enjoyable sport. But if your health deteriorates due to an illness you must discuss any symptoms with your doctor. Morning and evening peak flow measurements will determine whether your asthma is under control – do them twice daily during the diving season.
Let the Koox Dive Team Take Care of Everything
Scuba diving in Playa del Carmen with Koox is a wonderful underwater experience. As soon as you have the all-clear from your doctor, you’ll be able to explore the beauty of the Tulum cenotes. All the scuba gear is provided, and your safety and comfort will be the priority of the Koox diving guides. You’ll get all the personal attention you need to enjoy your dive at the level of your diving skills and experience. And prove that well-controlled asthmatics may dive within guidelines.
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