ASTHMA HAS BEEN A CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECT for divers ever since diving began. The numerous queries DIVER receives on the subject usually centre on the question of fitness to dive with the condition and the safety of the various medications when diving.
Most divers, new and old, seem to have very little understanding of how a condition that causes them so little trouble on the surface can cause potentially life-threatening complications under water.
Asthma is characterised by inflammation of the airways causing excessive mucous production and increased sensitivity that can result in broncho-constriction (closing down of the airways). This varies from person to person, and within the same person,from day to day. Things that can aggravate the condition, including cold, emotion, exercise,( you might not think, that you are doing much exercise while diving but you are so wrong) and allergies. Mainstays of treatment for asthmatics are the BLUE reliever inhalers that open up the airways, and the BROWN (or orange) preventor steroid inhalers, treatment underwater is going to be a bit hard, would you agree??.
Here is why, you should think again.. before you blame your instructor, for not taking you diving, if you have ASTHMA!!
Under water, it is the immense changes in pressure that make the condition more severe in divers. The main objections to mixing asthma with diving are :
Closing of the airways and increased mucous production leading to gas-trapping and the potential for pneumothorax (burst lung), AGE ( arterial gas embolism).
Asthma attacks under water, leading to shortness of breath, hyper-ventilation, panic and lack of exercise tolerance.
Increased air density and decreased respiratory reserve that occurs with increasing depth and aggravates the pre-existing lung condition.
Using medication to open the airways before diving has always been regarded as unacceptable, because of the patchy distribution and penetration of the drug into the airways. Standard blue reliever ‘puffers’ can often deliver to only 20% of the lung tissue. This may help the asthmatic having an attack to feel better, but leaves large parts of the lung ‘shut down’ and at risk.
I am not trying to be horrible here, in fact you might be able to dive if you have ASTHMA so if you have ATSHMA of any kind, and you know you want to go diving. GET THE PROPER CHECKS DONE, at home before you come here.
This was inspired by and article i DIVER magazine and of course more student coming here with ASTHMA !!