Divers Alert Network’s Emergency Hotline is available to everyone — free of charge — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Here are the top 5 reasons divers call the hotline:
Ear and sinus barotrauma
The best way to avoid ear or sinus squeeze is to avoid diving if you’re congested. Some divers use decongestants to dive anyway, but this isn’t recommended because the medication may wear off during a dive. As you learned in your certification course, equalize early and often.
Explore various equalization techniques, find one or more that work well for you, and master them. Stop your descent if you experience any ear or sinus pain, and master buoyancy control to avoid unexpected ascents and descents.
The best way to prevent decompression sickness (DCS) is to dive within your no-decompression limits. However, be aware that most cases of DCS occur in divers who were diving within their limits. Thus, it’s wise to dive conservatively rather than pushing the limits. Limit exertion while diving, and limit exercise for 12 – 24 hours after diving. Be sure to comply with the flying-after-diving guidelines: wait 12 hours to fly after a single no-decompression dive, 18 hours after multiple no-decompression dives, and 24 hours or more after decompression dives.
General feelings of unwellness
Symptoms such as headache, stomach ache, lightheadedness, and minor aches are not uncommon after dives. They can be quite troublesome when they occur after diving, however, because these symptoms may indicate decompression sickness.
This can be stressful for the diver and challenging even for medical professionals with training in diving medicine. To minimize the likelihood of these sorts of symptoms following diving, never dive if you’re feeling unwell. Don’t dive with a hangover, and don’t dive too soon after injury, surgery, or illness. Ultimately, if these sorts of symptoms persist, it’s best to call DAN and/or see a doctor.
There are several good reasons to avoid touching things while diving; one of them is to prevent injury to yourself. If you plan to descend or ascend using a line, wear gloves to protect your hands. At the end of the dive, be very careful around boat ladders. Determine where you should hold the ladder and where you should avoid holding it so you don’t injure your hand.
Give the diver in front of you plenty of space as they’re getting back on the boat so they don’t fall on you. When navigating a slippery boat deck, keep one hand available to stabilize yourself or catch yourself if you slip.
Never dive beyond your training, and be intentional as you gain experience in new environments and new conditions. Get refresher training if you’ve been out of the water for a while, dive with a trusted buddy if possible, and consider hiring a local guide.
Try to establish an objective understanding of your anxiety and its triggers and discuss this with your buddy and/or guide before you enter challenging situations.
If you experience these or any other problems while diving, Divers Alert Network (DAN) is here for you. Call the DAN Medical Information Line (+1-919-684-2948) or the DAN Emergency Hotline (+1-919-684-9111) if you need us.
This article was originally published in Scuba Diver North America #13.