23 June 2006

Diving and your health

Generally, diving should not pose serious health risks to the human body. But there are certain health hazards which divers should be aware of.

Generally, as long as sufficient preparation is done and correct procedures followed, diving should not pose serious health risks to the human body.

But there are a number of health requirements required for safe diving. All divers should go for a thorough medical examination before taking on diving, and any existing medical condition should be fully investigated by a suitably qualified medical practitioner.

There are certain medical conditions for which diving is advised against, and a medical practitioner will examine the patient to determine whether it is safe for him or her to dive. Depending on the severity of the condition, some advisories will be stronger than others.

Why the medical?
When the body is under pressure, it is working under stress that could increase the risk of medical problem. In addition the diver exposed to the unique physics and physiological changes experienced when exposed to the physical pressure and gas mixtures. Divers should be fit (a stress ECG is a good indicator to determine fitness) and heart and lung function should be good.

If a diver is diagnosed with a specific condition, and given the go-ahead to dive, they may still have certain restrictions placed on their diving activities. Your medical condition can determine your maximum diving depth and time, and the type of diving activity that is appropriate.

Diving medical examinations will keep the diver informed, and in turn minimise the risk of fatigue and cardiac arrest, and other heart-related conditions.

Below are examples of conditions that are strongly advised against with regards to diving:

  • uncontrolled asthma
  • epilepsy
  • serious lung disease
  • heart disease

Other conditions do not always rule out diving, although the severity will determine to what extent. Here are examples:

  • mild asthma
  • sinus problems
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)

The above information might make you feel unsure, or even a little afraid of the sport. But under normal conditions, the pressure effects of diving are well tolerated and can actually be quite therapeutic to limbs and joints in the sense that one can exercise in a zero gravity environment. Water is a dense support medium and can alleviate aches and pains normally experienced on land.

NOTE: The medical conditions stated above are only a fraction of those warned against. It is vital for a qualified diving medical practitioner to give his/her opinion on whether you should be diving or not.

(Health24, June 2006)

Information obtained from Jos Beer, Safety and Training Manager, Cape Diving (Pty) Limited and Dr Jonathan Rosenthal, Hyperbaric Physician, Diving Medical Examiner

Reviewed by Dr Jonathan Rosenthal, Hyperbaric Physician, Diving Medical Examiner

Read more:
Decompression sickness
How fit must a diver be?


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