The question about when is it safe to fly after having a diving expedition, is a significant concern for scuba divers. During basic training for divers, they learn that they should not go flying right after diving. Few learn anything more.
Diving and flying are both captivating hobbies that can overlap. Without proper planning, they can be physically dangerous or fatal when flying after diving. It’s important to consider the interval between these two activities.
The major risks for flying after diving is Decompression Sickness.
Decompression sickness (DCS) is a result of nitrogen in the blood streams getting compressed while diving and expands as the pressure decreases when coming out of water. When you fly there is increase in altitude while pressure around you decreases, so it takes longer for the body to flush out all the excessive nitrogen. After diving, the body should be allowed sufficient time to rid itself of excess nitrogen.
There are two types of DCS:
a) Type I DCS
Tends to be mild and affects joints, skin and the lymphatic vessels.
b) Type II DCS
Tends to be fatal since it affects vital organs such as the brain and/or the spinal cord. Its symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, headache, paralysis, blurred vision, loss of balance, burning chest pain, swelling on surface tissues and muscles weakness.
The following are some recommendations.
– The U.S Navy recommends that you wait for two hours before flying after diving.
– The U.S Air Force suggests you wait for 24 hours.
– The Professional Association of Divers Instructors’ recommend at least 18 hours of surface interval after diving before you can fly.
These recommendations are conflicting and confusing regarding which guidelines to follow. However, recently research has proved more information. The facts on flying after diving are on Divers Alert Network (DAN) guidelines which recommends that;
After single or multiple dives, the minimum pre-flight surface interval is at least 24 hours.
This is based on the recent research study called Cardiac Echo in Flight. Dr. Danilo Cialoni and Dr. Massimo Pierri from the research department of Diving Safety Laboratory along with their colleagues from Europe DAN, researchers Prof. Alessandro Marroni and Prof. Constantito Balestra, as well as two partners from DAN, Albatros Top Boat and Neos Air, researched what happens in the body of a diver during a flight. This was the first time in history for that research to be conducted successfully. In 2013, the research was presented at the EUBS (Europe Underwater and Baromedical Society Conference.) The researchers studied the production of bubbles in the divers’ body blood stream. No bubbles were observed after 24 hours interval time after diving.
Thus, 24 hours should be the sufficient surface interval time after diving before flying.
During the analysis, they discovered three categories of some divers. Some who do not develop bubbles, some occasionally develop bubbles and some who developed bubbles after every dive within the 24 hours interval. Therefore, its advisable that the latter category extend their time before flying to even 36 hours.
The research reveals too that shorter duration of flights after diving poses greater risk than long duration flights. This is because the altitude for aircraft pressurization for shorter distances is lower for shorter destinations than for longer destinations. The above guidelines are the minimum amount of time any sports diver or recreational diver should wait to fly after diving. This is a safety guideline but does not guarantee that you won’t get decompression sickness. The longer the interval between diving and flying, the lower the chances of Decompression Sickness ensuing.
The safety of an individual is of upmost importance and knowing the dangers of flying after diving is critical. Be smart, for example, while going on a vacation. Plan an extra day for resting after scuba diving before flying. You do not want to have a life threatening situation just after a happy vacation.
Finally, for scuba diving, invest in a dive computer that will give you accurate information. The dive computer calculates the time to fly, based on diving depths, time and number of dives. The dive computer should also consider fatigue, dehydration and general body fitness. Always consider your health safety above anything else before and after scuba diving.