Breathing elevated concentrations of oxygen is beneficial in the treatment of many scuba diving ailments.
Oxygen breathing will increase the oxygenation of any hypoxic body tissues and also help to flush out any dissolved nitrogen and nitrogen present in bubbles.
To achieve maximum benefit, the concentration of inspired oxygen should be as near to 100 percent as possible. One hundred percent oxygen is used because it does not contain any nitrogen or other inert gases.
All dive operations should have suitable oxygen equipment and an appropriately trained and qualified Oxygen Provider at the dive site. Ideally, all divers should have access to oxygen should it be needed after the dive.
For maximum benefit, oxygen breathing should begin as soon as possible after a diving injury. If only a limited supply of oxygen is available, it should be given in heavy concentrations from the time that the injury is recognized until the supply of oxygen is exhausted.
Enough oxygen should be available for the anticipated transport time between the dive site and an appropriate medical facility. It is important not to stop oxygen breathing too soon because even if the initial symptoms have disappeared with oxygen first aid, they can re-appear later and can worsen substantially.
This is one reason why it is important to contact a DAN hotline to seek advice when providing oxygen to a diver with symptoms.
Many oxygen devices have been designed to give oxygen to conscious and unconscious victims, however, very little oxygen equipment has been designed specifically for diving injuries. To help maximize the benefits in diving injuries and more easily achieve 100% oxygen, a demand delivery system should be used where possible.
A demand system with a tight-sealing oronasal mask can deliver near-100% oxygen to both the conscious and unconscious diver who are breathing slowly and strongly enough to trigger the demand valve effectively.
A breathing diver who cannot use a demand valve can breathe high oxygen concentrations via a non-re-breather mask with a flow rate of around 15 liters per minute (ensuring that the reservoir doesn't empty).
A non-breathing diver can be ventilated with relative ease and safety using a resuscitation mask attached to an oxygen outlet with a flow rate of 10 to 15 lpm.
DAN has been instrumental in the development of certain types of oxygen units which are designed to provide a simple, safe and effective means of providing oxygen to injured divers.
DAN's 'Oxygen First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries' course provides divers with the required knowledge and skills to safely administer oxygen to injured divers and is the most highly-regarded course in which to learn these skills.
Continue providing oxygen until the supply is depleted. Interrupt temporarily if the diver vomits, regurgitates, has a seizure or has difficulty breathing from the equipment. Resume oxygen provision as soon as possible and never leave the injured diver unattended.
Using a Resuscitation Mask with a Non-breathing Diver
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