Are You Healthy Enough to Dive?

Are You Healthy Enough to Dive?

Scuba diving is a fun, relaxing activity, but it’s important for divers to be healthy and fit.

Before getting in the water, you must complete a medical questionnaire where you’ll be asked to receive a doctor’s clearance if any potential medical issues exist. It’s also important to be comfortable and competent while in the water. Many courses have built-in tests to make sure you can handle yourself underwater and stay safe. 

Of course, knowing one’s level of fitness is essential to safe diving because, regardless of how easy it is, being underwater subjects our bodies to some pretty stressful and unforgiving situations. But what exactly constitutes “fitness to dive,” and how can we assess that? Does determining our fitness always require the insight of a trained medical professional? In this article, we will answer some of your most frequently asked questions about your health when it comes to diving. Of course, these are general answers and if you are unsure, you should always seek the opinion of a medical professional.

Is it safe to scuba dive while pregnant?

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Being pregnant is great news! During a dive, water pressure is exerted on all organs and fluids. There is also a considerable increase in partial pressures of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen in relation to depth. So how does this affect you if you are pregnant? The most common and most dreaded accident is undoubtedly decompression. 

At the moment, scientists are still working on this question but it is important to know that it is highly likely that the fetus can suffer decompression sickness even if the mother is safe. It also depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy. Here is a general rule:


Between 0 and 6 weeks: If you dive less than 20 meters deep, there is almost no risk.

Between 6 and 13 weeks: Better to avoid diving.

13 weeks and over: Scuba diving is a major risk.

Basically, scuba diving while pregnant are strongly discouraged and even prohibited in some cases to prevent accidents with the fetus. The good news? Four weeks after the delivery you can start diving again!

Is there an age limit for scuba diving?

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While most agencies do offer courses for children as young as eight years old, these are usually held in a confined body of water like a swimming pool and will not certify you to go out to the sea or a lake to dive. If you are only eight years old, they provide an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the world of diving and are great fun, so it is worth trying them out.

The most basic course is an Open Water Diver certification, and students younger than 15 years of age who complete the course become Junior Open Water Divers. These divers are only allowed to dive down to 12 meters, or 40 feet, and must be accompanied by an adult at every dive to ensure their safety.

But what about older adults? Recreational scuba divers shouldn’t worry about having to give up their hobby just because they’re getting older, according to researchers. Seniors who wish to continue diving, having started in their youth, may be safer than many younger divers, precisely because of their experience. 

Doctors previously thought that the general decline of the lungs over time would make older divers less able to cope with pressure changes and breathing compressed air. Particularly, scientists hypothesized that elderly lungs would retain dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. However, studies conducted by Duke University Medical Center showed that older divers did not retain levels of gas that were significantly higher than those in younger test subjects. 

Jacques Cousteau – the most famous diver of all time – continued to dive until his death at the ripe old age of 87! Age affects everyone differently, and of course you should always consult your doctor if you are unsure that you are healthy enough to dive.

Can I scuba dive if I can’t swim?

You might think that a person who cannot swim would not consider scuba diving as an option. The simple answer is yes, you can. However there are limits to what you can do. You are only allowed to make simple intro dives with an instructor, you can’t get a full scuba licence if you can’t swim, but you can try diving and hopefully enjoy the experience!

Can someone with asthma go scuba diving?

The topic of asthma and diving has long been a controversial subject in the recreational diving community. Perhaps the most liberal guidelines come from the United Kingdom, which states that well-controlled asthmatics may dive – within two guidelines:

  • If they have not needed a bronchodilator within 48 hours; 
  • If they do not have cold-, exercise- or emotion-induced asthma.

In Australia, however, all divers are expected to pass a spirometry (lung function) test, to exclude asthma, prior to certification. 

Yes, asthmatics are at a higher risk of accident or injury while diving, but they are not completely incapable. Just like with all divers, the individual health of the person must be taken into consideration before determining whether scuba diving is a safe option. For the most part, those in good physical shape who only struggle with asthma can learn to dive safely.

Can I scuba dive with a disability?

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About 15 percent of the world’s population has some form of physical disability. Although they can cause some physical limitations, it does not have to mean that scuba diving is out of the question. In fact, most dive organizations offer instructor training to teach people with disabilities to dive, either as part of their regular instructor training or as a specialty course. 

Scuba diving has also been used successfully as therapy for people with disabilities. Physical therapists have long known that water therapy is beneficial, but scuba diving can have its own benefits too. So yes, depending on the severity and nature of a disability, various diving options are open to a student.