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Scuba Vs Asthma

Travel Forums General Talk Scuba Vs Asthma

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11. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 10y

I had my one and only panic attack in the pool during my training so I understand the feeling. I won't go into details, but once you know what that feeling is - you can help prevent it again.

I totally agree with Mally - deep dives are not necessary and always be aware of your surroundings so you can get help quickly, if needed. Diving is a great experience at any depth. Hell, I could sit at 10 feet just watching the world go by underneath me and be happy. The experience itself is fulfilling!

Mally, thanks for more information on your experiences. And Lynz - let us know how it goes! You have peaked our interest!!!! ;)

12. Posted by iceman111 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 10y

I can understand the concern and sometimes the frustration that asthma suffers feel when trying certain activities, as I was a childhood asthma sufferer myself. The fact is, that only you and your doctor can make the determination of wether or not you can go diving.

There is always a risk of injury and/or death with diving even if your healthy and you must make a personal decision if you are willing to accept those risks. Whether or not asthma increases that risk is HIGHLY correlated with your condition, statistics showing asthmatic incidents are measured across a population, your risk may be less and it may be more than the stated statistics. Only your doctor can tell you the risk involved for your participation. Dive instructors and dive shop employees are not doctors and should not be taken as reliable sources of information about your specific condition! They can, however, be a good source of information for statistics in the mean. They can also be good sources of information for who to contact (doctors, other divers, etc).

If you are asthmatic and want to participate you should get a dive physical and ask that an asthma specialist consider your case (I would do this EVEN IF the primary care physican feels you are ok to dive, it's your life, talk to someone who really knows the facts). Work with the asthma specialist to determine the safest way for you to participate. You really don't want to chose to dive with Internet information alone.

What to expect when you visit an asthma specialist:
1) Survey of your history (exercise induced, cold induced, allergy induced, cold/sinus infection induced, other triggers?)
2) Survey of your previous medications (i.e. Albuterol (a type of broncial relaxant), Theodor, etc...)
3) (Usually, but not always) Methacholine challenge. Methacholine is a chemical that induces bronchial restriction, your reaction (lung volume, inhalation rate, etc) is measured while you are exposed to this drug. The theory is that asthma suffers are more sensitive this drug. The test can also give an indicator of possible asthma severity. Keep in mind, however, that the methacholine challenge IS NOT the same stimulus you will observe while diving. A good asthma specialist will point this out to you.
4) Proactive drug prescriptions. i.e. Inhaled corticosteroids.

The following webpage has a few well compiled statistics about asthma and snorkeling/scuba diving.

A few facts to point out from this page:

  • 4-7% of active divers have indicated they have asthma
  • The Divers Alert Network no longer lists as asthma as a contraindiction for diving.

Readers may inquire why does this guy know what he's talking about? And it is a *very* reasonable question, which I will try to answer now. Several years ago, I was planning on participating in a program at NASA that required a Flight Physical, hypobaric chamber training, and forced breathing in a rareified atmosphere (cold, dry tank air). There was concern about my asthma with the flight doctor and I was refered to an asthma specialist who performed the methacholine challenge and reviewed my history. The conclusion was that I was able to pass the flight physical and I was told I would also pass a divers physical (I explicitly asked the specialist about diving). His advice was consistent with the information I gave above (without the details of my specific case and asthma severity).

One way I found helpful to me is to look at the risks in comparison with other activities. How meaningful is "1 in a million chance of an incident"? Versus, how meaningful is "ten times more likely than being struck by lightening?" Be sure to look for statitics that take in account your amount of participation, for example: 1 in 5000 chance of being killed in a car crash is MUCH less informative than 21 deaths per 100 million miles driven. For example, sky diving, motor cycle riding, and horseback riding are high risk activities. I'm not sure how the risks compare with diving (with and without asthma), but it is instructive to note that the participants in those activities accept the risks involved, while others do not. Remember it is your decision, not someone elses. Just make sure you make an informed decision.

In any case, I hope this information was helpful to you.

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