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This help guide contains a comprehensive list of the most common scuba diving injuries and illnesses, with expert tips for the best treatments.
It highlights frequent medical issues associated with scuba diving - from repeated minor ailments to situations that can create a serious medical emergency.
Despite being a rare occurrence, divers report some scuba injuries and illnesses more often than others.
Once you know how to recognise a serious situation, you can make the appropriate response.
So, it's important to realise which scuba diving accidents and incidents happen the most - and how to treat them.
In fact, three medical issues are reported to Diver Alert Network (DAN) by email and the Emergency Hotline more than any of the others listed below.
Note: The pie chart shows dive related injuries and illnesses that happen most frequently. The top reported scuba injuries are Barotraumas (accounting for 44%) and the least is motion sickness at sea (around 2%).
The following symptoms are typical with ear and sinus barotraumas. You should stop diving and seek medical care (e.g. from an ear, nose, and throat specialist).
If the doctor rules out an infection, the recommended treatments may include nasal steroid sprays, a hot compress, or oral decongestants (e.g. pseudoephedrine).
Important: Equalising early and often is the best way to prevent ear barotrauma and you should also avoid using decongestants when diving.
Some of the most serious scuba injuries happen if there is a rapid decrease in surrounding pressure. For example, decompression sickness (The Bends) can occur if absorbed nitrogen comes out of solution too quickly.
In most of the reported cases of decompression sickness (DCS), the injured divers ignored the safe depth and time limits. Yet, it can still occur without any obvious contributing factor.
In general, DCS symptoms become apparent within one (1) hour of surfacing. Even so, it can take up to 24 hours for some of the usual symptoms to show up, such as:
Important: If you go flying too soon after diving you can increase the likelihood of getting DCS (because pressure inside the cabin will be less than sea level).
Some marine animals use toxins for a defence mechanism, such as jellyfish, cone snails, and stone fish. So, direct contact with human skin (e.g. injected through a puncture or a bite) can result in envenomation.
Often, this type of scuba diving injury occurs during a water entry or exit. But, it also happens by 'accident' when divers interact with marine life. Despite not always resulting in a life-threatening situation, marine envenomation often causes:
One of the repeated marine life-related injuries is coral scrape and it is experienced by snorkelers more often than scuba divers.
Left untreated, cuts and skin scrapes from sharp barnacles and corals can fester and weep (similar to the scratches from a house cat). It can take several weeks for this kind of injury to heal even after receiving medical attention.
Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of dive injuries. Knowing some basic first aid treatments for scuba medical problems can decrease the likelihood of an accident becoming seriously life-threatening. Click on the links for further information and treatments:
Deaths are relatively uncommon, but they do happen in dive areas the world over. Some are unique, but many have things in common.
In fact, most scuba diving deaths could have been prevented with proper training and equipment - as with most unfortunate accidents!
Note: This guide does not replace professional training in prevention, professional medical treatment, and scuba injury dive accident management.