Decompression Accidents in Recreational Diving
Good morning family!
Today we are talking about a topic that we should all know when diving, and that is that, despite the fact that it is a beautiful sport, we have to bear in mind that we do not practice it in our natural environment, but rather that we expose ourselves to pressure. Different from the surface, we breathe compressed air from an aluminum bottle, steel ... All these modifications to be able to access the marine world for a long period of time have their advantages and disadvantages. Today we will talk about the possible and unlikely problems or injuries that we can suffer when we practice recreational diving.
We will start talking about Decompressive Sickness (DCS). What is it? Divers breathe compressed air that contains nitrogen. At higher pressure underwater, nitrogen gas lodges in the body's tissues creating microbubbles. Our body continuously uses oxygen, and in general, excess oxygen molecules inhaled under high pressure (no more than 1.4 bars of Pp.) Do not accumulate because the body metabolizes them, but in the case of nitrogen The excess of the molecules does accumulate in the blood, tissues and according to DAN medical studies even in the bones. As we go up the pressure decreases, but these bubbles do not disappear at the same speed, that is why we carry out safety stops controlled by tables already studied or by a dive computer.
The symptoms can be various, but the most common are pain, weakness on one side of the body, dizziness, difficulty speaking, inflammation, swelling, muscle, joint or tendon pain, tremors ...
Unfortunately, to this day, there is still a lot to study to understand the reason for the DCS, because, according to a study carried out by DAN, it was found in a group of divers, that even making the stops marked by the computer and by the Tables prepared earlier, during an ascent, some participants suffered EDCS. That is why it was concluded that DCS is also related to mood, with the Muscle Mass Index (tissues with a high fat content, such as those of the brain and spinal cord, are the most affected, because nitrogen dissolves in fat very quickly and takes longer to desaturate) ... It is still an unknown subject and that must be further studied in order to avoid these accidents.
WHAT WE CANNOT DO AFTER DIVING
There are also key and very important things that every diver has to know after diving, although, in the first diving experience such as baptism or Discover Scuba Diving, the same instructor must explain what not to do after practicing this sport.
- Do not travel by plane: nitrogen particles remain lodged in the body for at least 12 hours after diving. It may happen that at the end of the vacation you take an air trip between 12 and 24 hours after making a dive or even earlier. Plan to do this activity days before takeoff to avoid an DCS.
- Do not move to a high altitude place. Taking in the view from the top of a 10,000-foot / 3,048-meter mountain to snap some photos puts you at the same risk of decompression sickness as flying in an airplane.
- Avoid making great efforts after diving.
Experts recommend avoiding deep tissue massage, but do not panic, you can perform a gentle relaxation massage. The two main concerns with deep tissue massage are:
- Increased blood flow can lead to the formation of bubbles
- Muscle pain that can cause pain that can lead to a misdiagnosis (or late diagnosis) of DCS.
Relaxing in a hot tub: As the body warms up and circulation improves, there is a greater chance of bubble formation. According to DAN: "Since gas solubility is inversely related to temperature, tissues will retain less of the solution as they heat up. Heating the tissue with significant loads can promote the formation of bubbles. Superficial tissues precede increased blood flow, such bubbles can become problematic before circulation can remove them safely. "
- Avoid alcohol: Drinking a lot of alcohol causes dehydration. We know that you are on vacation and that you want to enjoy or join the party of your friends, but you must be responsible, and hydrate a lot with water. After a few hours of hydration you can enjoy but in moderation (then take a day off before going back to the water!).
HOW CAN WE PREVENT DCS
Before diving, we must also keep many things in mind, remember that you are going to practice a sport in a different environment than yours, which is not the same as going to the beach to take a dip, you are going to be breathing compressed air from an artificial bottle and you are going to expose yourself to drafts, cold, heat, high pressures ... you have to be mentally and physically prepared. So:
- Before diving, you must fill out a medical questionnaire. The recreational diving law changed recently (we have a post explaining the new regulations), and now the Medical Certificate is no longer mandatory, if not first, you must fill out a document with some questions, and depending on the answers you will have to do it or not . Even so, we recommend doing an examination, it is never bad to know from the mouth of a hyperbaric doctor if you are SUITABLE to dive or have any ailment that you did not know ...
- Your insurance in order. We always repeat. When you drive you must carry insurance, right? Diving too. Diving insurance is mandatory. If you are going to hire a diving or snorkeling activity, make sure that the dive insurance center includes the diving insurance in the price, or if you dive on your own, take it off! With us you can do it whenever you want, and you can hire it from the web, without having to contact us.
- Take your diving courses at an ACCREDITED diving school. That they teach you to dive but also to know what you are exposed to, the advantages and disadvantages, how to prevent and how to act in the event of an accident.
- Know the symptoms of DCS and, even better, know the first aid to perform.
- Have 24-hour medical assistance telephones at hand. Here in Spain and Catalonia it is 112. It is a telephone for urgent and emergency calls. It is not a general information telephone, please use it rationally. For general health information there is the telephone number 900 102 112 that works 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
- Follow the diving safety rules: in pairs, progressive and slow rate of ascent, follow the decompression tables (stops, time, depth, pressure group)
- If you are going to do two dives in one day, always start with the deepest one. Remember that no more than 3 dives in one day are recommended.
- As we have said before, the state of mind influences a lot when it comes to suffering from DCS. Make sure that you are in good physical shape, that you are well, that you have not suffered an accident or a traumatic event ...
- Avoid eating too much and respect at least 2 hours before the dive.
- Drink plenty of fluids before diving. Of course, let's avoid alcohol before a dive, not to mention that it is FORBIDDEN to dive with alcohol...
HOW WE SHOULD ACT IF WE FIND AN DCS
In the Rescue Diver and First Aid course, we teach you how to act in different diving accidents: unconscious diver, an ED, cardiac arrests, on the surface, in the water, diver in panic ... And we always say that this course should be mandatory for each diver, because you learn to handle any situation, and to save lives.
Although the only treatment in case of DCS is recompression in a hyperbaric chamber and the administration of O2 to the highest possible percentage, that is, recompress the diver to a certain depth, apply tables to reduce bubbles and prevent them from clogging the arteries and affecting to the least amount of tissues, before medical services arrive you should know that:
- The diver with DCS must remain lying down and breathe medicinal oxygen (in all diving boats it is mandatory to carry it, it is normally presented in a green protective wrap, we always leave it near the skipper).
- If he is conscious, it will be good to give him some non-carbonated or alcoholic liquid to drink, otherwise we will have to wait.
If you must travel by helicopter, it cannot exceed 300m in altitude, and if it is done with a vehicle, we will avoid accelerations and mountain ascents.
- If possible, we will record the entire event, including maximum depth reached, bottom time, successive immersion, risk factors, rate of ascent, patient symptoms ... This information will help to correctly evaluate the problem.
Well family, we hope you can dive calmly and that a decompression accident does not happen to you, but if one day it happens to you or a colleague, this post will remind you how to act or prevent. We cannot teach you the whole world of diving in a single initiation course, but ask us, read, inform you, that knowledge never takes place. If you have any questions, whether you dive with us or not, leave it in the comments, in an email firstname.lastname@example.org, by whatsapp 677669132, social networks @ametlla_diving, or call us!
Until the next blog!