flying and diving
I'm planning a diving holiday with a couple of friends. We were going to fly
a Bonanza to North Queensland and join a week long, live aboard, diving tour
from there. We thought there were some problems with flying and diving but don't
know any details........
I'm a jealous man. I'd love to be planning a diving holiday at the moment.
You're quite correct, there are a few matters of concern with diving and flying.
The main worry is Decompression Illness which is commonly known, in diving
circles, as 'The Bends'.
When you're breathing air under water (as in most SCUBA diving) your body is
absorbing extra Nitrogen gas. This isn't usually a problem until you head to the
surface again. If you surface too quickly or don't take adequate decompression
stops the Nitrogen won't be able to leave your body rapidly enough and it will
form little bubbles. These bubbles can interfere with the function of any part
of your body, especially the lungs, nerves, brain, and skin.
You might have only a few tiny bubbles, causing no problems at all, in your body
when you reach the surface. If, however, you go flying the bubbles will expand
(due to the reduction in pressure with altitude) and could cause the onset of
Decompression Illness symptoms. These symptoms might be little more than a vague
sensation of feeling tired or 'crook' or they might be itches and rashes on the
skin, pain in the joints, breathing difficulties, or numbness, weakness, or
While most cases of Decompression Illness are mild and have no long term effects
the disease can cause permanent neurological problems, paralysis, and even
There is no 100% certain way of avoiding Decompression Illness (except never
diving, flying, or going into pressure chambers) but there are ways of reducing
your chances of being afflicted by this disorder. The first thing is to dive
conservatively and according to the profiles of a well recognized, well tested,
set of dive tables (I'd recommend the DCIEM Sports Diving Tables). Don't
believe the sales hype attached to dive computers, none of them are as
thoroughly tested or as conservative as the DCIEM tables. Once you've finished
diving the best way to avoid Decompression Illness is to treat yourself with
respect - don't overdo exercise or alcohol and avoid flying.
The difficult question is 'How long should I wait before flying after diving?'
Again there are no hard-and-fast, 100% guaranteed, rules. My practice is to
avoid flying for at least 24 hours after a non-decompression dive and 48 hours
after a decompression dive. The Royal Australian Navy currently recommends
diving within the DCIEM Sports Diving Tables and not flying until your
'Repetitive Factor' returns to 1.0 - the DCIEM table is one of the few sports
diving tables that considers flying after diving. The bottom line is the longer
you wait before flying the less likely you will be to suffer Decompression
The other diving / flying problems relate to your ears and sinuses. Any damage
or injury to your ears and sinuses during your diving can lead to pain and
impairment of function during flight. While an ear that is partly blocked might
clear during climb-out it may not during descent. The pain that results can be
exquisite and quite disabling. Don't fly until any diving related problems have