Is SCUBA Diving Dangerous?
Samuel Johnson November 14th, 2019 Posted In: Articles Tags: SCUBA
Is SCUBA Diving Dangerous?
SCUBA Diving can be a fun and rewarding experience that allows us to individually travel deep underwater. However, SCUBA diving can be dangerous, especially to the untrained. There are many risks and hazards to take into account.
SCUBA stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. There are many different types of scuba diving specialties such as recreational diving above 100 feet, deep diving, underwater caves, and wreck diving, cold water temperature diving, underwater welding diving, and more. The diving gear required to minimize danger depends on the area and type of dive you want to make. A SCUBA dive near warm tropical waters may only require the basic scuba gear such as a buoyancy control device (BCD), regulators, depth and pressure gauges, dive mask, fins, full air tanks, weights, and weight belt if needed.
I recommend dive gloves and boots, especially for dives where you enter from the shore or beach and have to travel over possible rocks or coral. Colder water divers or deep dives may require the use of a wetsuit or drysuit. Wetsuits help retain body heat but are not waterproof so some heat is still lost. A drysuit keeps the water out and a cushion of air around the body acts as insulation. Drysuits require training and practice to operate and there are cases where too much air accumulates at the feet and causes the diver to flip upside down.
SCUBA Diving Risks
There are many risks when SCUBA diving. These can range from environmental hazards such as currents and predators to operational issues such as decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, or other risks such as health issues, underwater debris, or entanglement. You may want to bring a dive knife in case you need to cut old fishing line which might catch on equipment.
The Bends or decompression sickness is when dissolved gasses form bubbles in any area of the body. This can occur when divers who have spent time underwater do not ascend slowly enough to the surface. This is why it is important to plan every dive ahead of time to ensure you do not exceed certain time lengths at a given depth. The deeper you travel underwater, the greater the pressure on your body and air. This is why deeper dives do not last as long as dives that stay near the surface, you run out of air faster the deeper you go. The bends can cause major problems depending on where the bubbles form. Any area of the body can be impacted such as the brain, heart, ears, lungs, skin, or joints. These bubbles can cause intense pain, injury, or even death. Treatment may require hospitalization and access to a hyperbaric chamber.
Another risk that divers may face is nitrogen narcosis. This is an issue that usually appears in deeper dives approaching 100 feet or 30 meters underwater. Around that point certain gases that have been a pressurized start to potentially alter a diver’s consciousness. SCUBA divers must be aware of the effects of nitrogen narcosis because it can lead to errors of decision making which can prove fatal. Symptoms can include dizziness, euphoria, memory loss, confusion, anxiety, and even death. Each diver and every dive is unique and must be approached with caution and proper training from experienced coaches.
Diving to 100 feet can cause a diver to forget something as simple as how much time you have at that depth leading to panicked ascents which can cause the bends and other problems. During the course of earning a diving certification, your coach may take you down to that range to let you experience the symptoms for yourself in a more controlled environment.
While sharks and other sea creatures may seem scary and get a bad reputation, you generally can avoid these animals. You may want to learn the dangerous and poisonous creatures to know what to look for. The last thing you want is to get too caught up taking pictures of pretty fish to notice that they are dangerous barracuda or scorpionfish. Besides sharks, barracuda, and scorpionfish, you may also want to avoid lionfish, sea snakes, octopi, jellyfish, stingrays, cone snails, and more. Treat animals, fish, and other underwater sea creatures with caution and respect by keeping your distance and not provoking them.
Accidents and Equipment Failure
Major SCUBA diving dangers include equipment failures or accidents. Pre-dive checks of all equipment and function are vital steps to a safe dive. Running out of air is deadly but it can also cause buoyancy issues. You control your buoyancy with a combination of weights and air pumped into the Buoyancy Control Device (BCD). You can also control your buoyancy with your breathing. Deeper dives require more air or different equipment.
You also need to plan extra time to decompress at certain intervals during your ascent to avoid the bends and other major issues. Caves, underwater debris, sunken ships, fishing wire and nets, and other hazards can litter dive spots. These can be dangerous because divers can get trapped, stuck, hit their heads, or run out of air while trying to find an exit. Trying to ascend too quickly, as panicked divers might, also runs the risk of causing damage to your lungs. As a diver ascends and moves towards the surface, the oxygen will expand as pressure lessens. Divers must be sure to exhale while ascending to keep their lungs from over-expanding.
SCUBA diving can be fun and relaxing, but may also require strenuous activity or put a strain on the body. People with certain health conditions may need to avoid SCUBA diving. Heart, lung, breathing, blood pressure, and other issues may require you to talk with a doctor prior to diving. Keep in mind that changes in altitude such as flying can also complicate the effects of SCUBA diving. Medication can also cause problems when diving. Do not drink or use drugs before diving to lower your risk of having dive issues.
Is SCUBA Diving Safe?
SCUBA diving can be safe and exhilarating if done right and safely. This requires proper planning and understanding of the risks and hazards you will face underwater. The best way to prepare is to take a professional certification course with an experienced instructor. Practice and training above water, in pools, and taking gradual steps will make necessary actions second nature and may save your life one day. Do not let the dangers of SCUBA diving scare you away.
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