Health and Diving

In an age of instant gratification fuelled by a spirit of inclusion, few people are willing to be really honest with themselves about their state of physical well being. Whether it be a legitimate lack of introspective ability or simply a refusal to accept reality, in day to day life, the chances of consequences are slim. Diving, they can become a liability. There are numerous health pitfalls for divers to fall into, this article is about a few of the more common ones.


Few people think about the side effects of their medications on the surface. What’s less studied up on is the effects of medications under the effects of multiple atmospheres of pressure. If you’re on any medication, check by DAN or a diving physician about it before you descend to depth.

For anti-malarials (a strong recommendation) in tropical areas, you’ll have a variety of choices. Two of the more common ones (Mefloquine and Malarone) can mimic the effects of DCI. Prior to deploying to Afghanistan the first time, we were briefed on anti-malarials. When asked who was planning on diving, I put up my hand and got a single choice: Doxycycline. It’s my recommendation, but ultimately go with your doctor’s advice.

Heart Issues

No one likes thinking that they’re having heart issues. They ignore them, act like they’re not as bad as they are, and act like it’s all okay. Few things ruin a dive like a heart attack. If you think you might be suffering from a heart issue, see a doctor and get it checked out. At worst, they’ll find a problem and treat it, making you safer. If it’s nothing, you’re at least comforted by that. If you do have to go onto medication for it, make sure it’s a compatible with diving before you dive again.


Diving while pregnant is not recommended. While not not well researched, a body of evidence [1] [2] is indicating that it can be harmful to foetal development amongst other things. My best advice here: Please don’t dive while pregnant.

Over All Fitness

This has come up before, here. It’s worth reiterating though. Diving is a physically demanding activity, where you are exploring and existing in an alien environment. While you don’t have to be a triathlete to dive, a good general level of cardio fitness and strength is highly advisable.

The reason for this is simple. Decent cardio and strength will help you in almost every possible aspect of a dive. Air consumption when you have to exert yourself, pulling yourself out of the water in a difficult entry/exit point, or in case an incident, rescuing a buddy. There is some discussion as well about lower body fat making divers less susceptible to DCI. So… fitness is always good.

Well, that’s my two cents on this topic for now. Realistically, a good understanding of your own level of fitness and preparedness will help avoid a lot of these problems. Safe diving!

About the author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography, and an Advanced GIS certificate.