Scuba diving with asthma has been discouraged for many years due to the potential negative effects that diving can have on an asthma patient’s ability to breathe and the complications that impaired breathing or the experience of an asthma attack can have underwater. Gauging the severity of the asthma and understanding the implications and demands of being underwater for extended periods of time can enable divers to make informed decisions on whether or not they should dive at all and what precautions they would need to take.
One of the most important concerns of scuba diving with asthma is the narrowing of breathing tubes that asthma patients suffer from and the extended negative effects diving may have on the bodies of asthma patients. Asthma attacks can be triggered by cold air or the presence of an infection, and they can happen somewhat randomly sometimes, which is primarily why diving with asthma can be dangerous. Also, the higher gas density and narrowing breathing tubes at greater depths can create increased internal pressure that may lead to lung rupture and arterial gas embolism in the most severe of cases.
When scuba diving with asthma, people often are not aware of the destructive effects that the increasing pressure of ocean water can have on the lungs and airways of the asthmatic diver. In asthmatics, every detail counts, and anything from the inhalation of cold and dry air to the inhalation of sea water due to losing the mouthpiece may threaten the significant narrowing of airways and additional issues such as peripheral gas-trapping. Exercise limitation and an impaired ability to breathe can be quite dangerous underwater, which is why many experts recommend that asthma patients avoid scuba diving, particularly at greater depths, where returning to the surface or receiving timely assistance quickly may not be possible.
There are a few conditions that would allow asthma patients to dive and perform the necessary exercises during the diving process. However, this would require some thorough medical tests and evaluations – including lung tests and endurance exercise tests to check the severity of the asthma. If the treatment regimen used can improve the condition and return pulmonary function to normal, then the person in question will likely be able to dive safely. Although scuba diving with asthma is not generally encouraged, the proper use of long-acting bronchodilators and oral steroids may provide the necessary aid for asthmatic patients to be able to dive. Finally, it is also extremely important for divers who are not aware of having asthma to keep track of symptoms and episodes that could suggest they may be prone to the condition.