Scuba diving is a fun and exhilarating extreme sport that many people enjoy. No matter how many dives you’ve been on or how many locations you’ve traveled to, diving always offers a unique thrill and a charging rush of adrenaline.
While diving is definitely an exciting pastime, it can also be dangerous and has a some risk factors involved. Diving should be enjoyed by all who are physically capable, but a major part of the dive is knowing the basic guidelines and being familiar with safety tips and basic medical information.
One of the major considerations that needs to be taken is how soon you will need to fly after diving. Many people are not aware that you should not fly within hours since your last dives. Realistically this makes perfect sense, but it helps to know exactly why as well as having a general idea of some of the things you might feel after a dive.
If you’ve been diving, then you know how strange it feels when you descend into the abyss. It begins to feel as if there is an incredible weight pushing down on you, and the deeper you go, the more pressure there is.
Interestingly enough, that feeling is more than just a feeling; it’s actually physically happening. When you stand on the shore you have one atmosphere of weight on you. It’s always there and you don’t even notice it.
When you dive, you force yourself below sea level, and for every 33 feet / 10 meter of depth you go, another atmosphere of pressure is added. Obviously this added weight has to have some sort of impact on your body; it’s a major change! Because of that added pressure, the nitrogen in the air you breath ends up to form a solution in your blood. This change then causes your blood to become (extremely) saturated with nitrogen.
Keeping this in mind, you now have to know that when you fly, you are forcing yourself above sea level and the opposite effect takes place. Increased altitude decreases pressure and could cause the nitrogen to bubble.
If you’ve ever been on a diving trip that involves multiple dives in one day, you know that you are required to ascend slowly and spend some time above the water before diving again. This is what we know this as surface time.
Flying right after diving means that all of that extra nitrogen solution that you have in your blood from diving is now bubbling like crazy (think of opening a bottle of soda after shaking it).
Even the slightest increase in altitude after a dive can cause decompression sickness. If simply returning to the surface has its risks, why would you want to ascend to heights of over 8,000 feet?
While decompression sickness is horrible, there are far worse things that can happen if you choose to fly while you still have residual nitrogen in your system.
Even the most seasoned divers can have sudden side effects after a dive, some of the most common of which include headaches, nausea, and extreme fatigue. While these are tolerable, it’s important to keep in mind that once you are on a plane, there is no medical help available should your condition get worse.
Flying direct after diving puts you at extreme risk for gas bubbles forming in your joints, skin, and even your blood. Should these bubbles form within your blood, it could lead to an embolism.
Basically, an embolism causes an obstruction in your arteries. This means that the blood cannot pass through and get to your organs; sadly, embolism often leads to death.
There is no real reason for needing to dive and fly in the same day. Plan your trip so that you have a full day of relaxation before you fly back home. Put your health and safety first so that you can enjoy many more beautiful dives.
The exact time between diving and flying depends on how many dives you do in a certain period of time. Make sure you log your dives and you stay well within the limits of recreational diving. As long as you dive by the simple rules we all have learned, the chances you will get hurt wile scuba diving (or after) are very small.
Where you fully aware of the diving and flying rules? Let us know in the comments below
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Blog written by: Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.