There are several common reasons why some divers experience a dry mouth or a sore throat after making a dive, such as repeated swallowing or breathing dry air from a scuba tank.
But, having a swollen uvula after diving calls for more scrutiny. This help guide highlights some probable causes of severe dryness in the mouth with tips for scuba divers who find it difficult to swallow.
The tissue that hangs down like a small finger from the soft palate at the back of the throat is called the uvula.
It's easier to see it when your mouth is open wide and your tongue is protruding forward.
So, what does the uvula do when you swallow, such as when you are eating food and drinking liquids?
The main purpose of the uvula is to secrete saliva. Thus, it moistens your mouth and throat and it helps you to swallow when you eat and drink.
Pro Tip: When humans are swallowing, the back of the roof of the mouth (called the soft palate) and the uvula move backward. This function helps to prevent food and liquid from going up into the nasal cavity. In medical terms, uvulitis refers to an inflammation or abnormal swelling of the uvula.
In fact, there is very little research about dry throats after scuba diving. But, several anecdotal case studies exist about divers who got a sore throat or swelling of the uvula (uvulitis) after they made repetitive dives.
Some divers recommend sucking on hard candy to encourage the production of saliva and reduce dryness. But, it's best to try this at the surface before you descend and not while you're actually underwater breathing from a scuba regulator.
In general, the scuba diving safety rules that relate to this situation would be whether the swelling is impairing the airway. Any condition that affects a diver's airway warrants prompt medical evaluation and attention.
Some of the common causes of airway issues for scuba divers, some benign and some more serious, include:
It's fair to assume that scuba diving is not the only cause of a swollen uvula. But, the potential exposure to foreign substances (allergens) and infectious agents increases for divers. Plus, breathing dry gases for long periods of time may worsen the situation.
Here's the thing:
Moreover, it may also have some effect on normal equalisation techniques. If so, you may need to consult an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician for further investigation.
So, what should you do if you experience a sore throat after diving? First, you should refrain from more dives until you have been medically evaluated.
Next, get the proper treatment for the symptoms to reduce the risk of transmitting the condition to others (e.g. if it's infectious).
Pro Tip: As with all medical procedures, Divers Alert Network (DAN) recommends getting cleared by your treating physician before participating in full and unrestricted activities, including returning to scuba diving activities after Uvulitis.