Medical Forum
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Question
Posted : December 6, 2005
I have a friend who suffered from asthma when she was young, but she now rarely experiences any relapse. She has taken part in diving on 2 occasions and seemed to be all right. Is diving suitable for her?


Answer
Posted : December 6, 2005
In the UK we allow asthmatics to dive, but only if they have passed a stringent medical. The main danger is that if a diver suffers bronchconstriction whilst underwater, the expanding gas cannot be exhaled fully as the air passages are inflammed and so are blocked. This means that the tiny alveoli at the end of the lung tubes are ruptured by the expanded air, and so air bubbles pass into the arterial circulation causing the dreaded CAGE , or cerebral artery gas embolus.

This can easily cause death.

But as things have moved on the evidence is now that a well controlled asthmatic has an equal chance of this as a smoker, and we let them dive. So in the UK at least we have relaxed our opinion on asthma and diving.

The medical is to check that the lung function is good enough to dive and also that the trigger for asthma is not exercise. If it is then the diver is failed as if a dive turned nasty an asthma attack would be fatal and also risk the buddies life too.

From my experience of seeing a lot of asthmatics who want to dive is that it amazes me how quite often the diagnosis is questionable, made early in their life on the basis of a few nocturnal coughing fits and then a lifetimes ventolin inhaler usage will follow.

So I suggest your friend sees a Diving Doctor to see if she is fit enough to dive, and if so even go and see an asthma specialist to ask whether the diagnosis still holds.
Answer provided by Dr Oliver Firth
Dr Ollie Firth
Additional Comment

Posted : December 18, 2005 by - matt_young2
For what its worth, I have asthma and enjoy diving. At my Open Water I was almost "told off" for being a risk ot my buddy due to the ignorance of the instructors involed.

My asthma is well controlled and I am sensible enough to manage it properly. I therefor have no problem diving at all.
Disclaimer:
The views expressed by Dr Firth & Dr Jules are their own and the publishers accept no liability for the advice and views expressed by Dr Firth , Dr Jules, or other users, which are provided as a general service to divers. Users are warned that secondary posts are the views of other users and may not be medically correct.
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