How Can I Reduce My Risk of Decompression Sickness?

the bends from scuba diving
28 Oct 2020

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Decompression Sickness?

The thrill of the dive is always overshadowed by the potential onslaught of decompression sickness. And no one wants their experience of the deep to be dangerous. The trouble is you can never fully prevent getting the bends from scuba diving. But the good news is you can significantly reduce your risk of getting it when you’re down in the deep.

So, let’s put your mind at ease with the following tips to do just that.

What is Decompression Sickness?

As a diver, you’re probably already aware of DCS (the bends) from your training. But if you’re new to diving, or a little worried about getting it, it helps to know a little more about what causes it.

Your gas tank contains both oxygen and nitrogen, and their behavior is affected by changes in pressure. During a dive, your body absorbs more nitrogen proportionately to the pressure around you.

The issue lies in the ascent where the pressure drops and nitrogen gas bubbles up in the blood and bodily tissues. This causes symptoms of varying degrees, from mild such as numbness, tingling, and pain, to severe such as breathing trouble, vertigo, and even paralysis.

How to Avoid the Bends From Scuba Diving

While the minor cases can simply result in minor discomfort, you still want to avoid symptoms of the bends wherever possible. You may not even know you have it at first as some symptoms can take up to a couple of days to show. So to avoid any of it, be sure to do the following:

Keep properly hydrated

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of DCS. If your blood becomes more saturated with nitrogen than oxygen, there’s a more risk of nitrogen gas getting released around your body. Staying hydrated helps to balance this and deal with the nitrogen saturation more efficiently.

Avoid Alcohol

It’s common sense not to dive under the influence. Apart from affecting your judgment, it dehydrates you further and increases your heart rate. Not what you want when you have excess nitrogen circulating in your body.

Stay Fit

Exercise helps improve your circulatory system. The fitter you are, the easier it is for your body to circulate oxygen to your muscles, as well as eliminate nitrogen more effectively. Of course, being in good shape gives you more strength and better control of your body in the water too.

Have a Dive Plan

It’s essential to know your dive site and the depths of it before you go into the dive. Proper planning means you know what to expect in your given time frame. It also allows you adequate time to respond and adapt to changing events, such as currents or wildlife.

Always Ascend Slowly

Maintaining an ascent speed of around 9-18m per minute ensures your body has sufficient time to release gas safely. It helps to use a dive computer and nitrogen monitor for this. It can also help to do a safety stop to give you a little extra time when needed.

Do Not Fly After Diving

Ascending to high altitudes can elevate your risk of DCS as nitrogen is still being released from your system. Therefore, it is best not to fly 24 hours after your last dive.

Keep a Smooth Dive Profile

Think of your dive like the curve on a graph. As you go up and down, it should be a smooth, gradual curve rather than saw-toothing. This ensures a much safer decompression and release of gas on your ascent.

Beware the Bends

Try not to let your fear of the bends deter you from having fun in your dive. So long as you take the proper precautions, you should have no trouble avoiding the bends from scuba diving.

Remember your training, follow the advice above, and you’ll be fit for exploring the depths of the deep blue in complete safety and comfort. And if you want to train yourself, take a look at some of our courses on offer today!