When you ask doctors about whether it’s okay to go diving with sinus congestion, most of the time the answer you’d get would be a “no.” And although they mean well, diving with a cold isn’t always that bad. See, there are several things that you need to consider when you find yourself in such cases, one of which is if you’re actually hit by the cold virus.
Are You Sure It’s a Cold?
First off, you need to determine whether it’s really a case of sniffles or not. As many experts have found, having a congested nasal passage or a runny nose does not necessarily mean that you have a cold. This is because there are several possible causes as to why you may be experiencing the said symptoms such as traveling conditions and allergic reactions.
For instance, let’s say you decided to take a dive holiday in Hawaii, or maybe even travel across the world to visit those famous dive sites in Iceland, and upon landing you suddenly felt the emerging symptoms of a cold. In this case, what you’re feeling may not actually be the dreaded illness but a reaction to the air, you’ve been breathing in the airplane cabin.
The cabin air is mostly recirculated air and a combination of every breath exhaled by you and the other passengers plus all the dirt, dust, and even mold and mildew in the plane’s ventilation system. Even if you have a strong immune system, being exposed to such things for extended periods of time can still cause your body to react negatively. Also, being in the air for hours can harm your body as a whole, which only makes the situation worse.
That said, if your nose feels stuffy or runny after your flight, take ample time to rest before heading out for your dive. Just how long this will take will depend on several things like your body’s ability to bounce back after being under stress, how well you take care of yourself during this time, and others.
But What If It Is a Cold?
If after resting you still feel like you have a cold, or see the early symptoms mentioned above becoming worse over time, then it is probable that your body has been compromised and that you are indeed suffering from a cold. Don’t worry just yet because you can still go one with your dive depending on how sick you are.
What Medications Can I Take?
If it is just a mild case of sniffles and congestion, then it is likely that you can still don your scuba fins and a scuba mask and go on with your planned dive. You can take certain cold medications to help alleviate what you’re feeling, though you’ll want to be careful about which type of medication to take.
Some medications are relatively safe and will have no side effects if taken when diving with sinus congestion. There are others though which may cause some unwanted side effects which can put your plans in jeopardy. For instance, some medications have been known to cause increased heart rates, drowsiness, and others. And continuing with the dive while experiencing these things will not only make your dive uncomfortable, but it can also put you and the rest of your dive group at risk since you won’t be able to focus and think straight.
When choosing a cold medication, it is best to ask a physician first or the medical officer in the dive resort. Also, you’ll want to take your meds a few hours before the scheduled dive. This will give the medicine ample time to take effect and all the symptoms may have disappeared by the time you set up your scuba diving gear. Another reason for doing this is so that you can see how your body reacts to the medicine, which is to say that if you don’t feel any adverse reactions then you may proceed with the dive and vice versa.
Also, when choosing a cold medication you’ll want to choose one that is long-lasting. There are cold medications that can provide relief for up to 12 hours, and you’ll want to consider taking those. This way, the effects don’t wear off while you’re underwater.
When to Cancel Your Dive
As sad as it may sound, there will be times when you’ll be forced to cancel your diving expedition on account of a cold. This is because having a stuffy or congested nose will ultimately make it difficult for you to breathe properly while underwater. Besides, you won’t be able to equalize your ears and elevates your risk of decompression sickness on your ascent.
Some colds are also accompanied by fevers and chills, which again are signs that you should avoid diving for now. Your body’s high temperature will only speed up your metabolism and cause you to burn through your scuba tank much faster (aside from the fact that it will make you uncomfortable inside your diving wetsuit or diving drysuit).
Lastly, if your cold is accompanied by coughing and phlegm you’ll want to forego the diving altogether. In such cases, coughing will make breathing through your mouth difficult and the excessive phlegm or mucus in your lungs can lead to a fatal case of arterial gas embolism.
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Diving with a cold can be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to skip on your long-awaited diving expedition. Just be sure to take stock of your body and how you are feeling, and do consult a physician about what medications you can take. And please, if you really don’t feel well then consider canceling the trip altogether. The ocean and all its wonders will still be there when you get better.