Scuba Diver Australasia - - Research, Education & Medicine - By Jim Caruso, M.D.

Tips for Stay­ing Healthy at Sea

One of the most en­joy­able as­pects of live­aboard dive boats, cruises and group dive travel is the so­cial en­vi­ron­ment. You can meet some ter­rific peo­ple with di­verse back­grounds and sit around in the evenings shar­ing sto­ries of the day’s ad­ven­tures and pre­vi­ous great dives. Some of the new friend­ships may last long past the time spent at sea. Un­for­tu­nately, with the good may come the bad – and some­times the ugly. Com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases can be passed among peo­ple who share con­fined liv­ing spa­ces such as those found on cruise ships, live­aboards and com­mer­cial air­craft.

You would have to be liv­ing in a me­dia vac­uum to have missed the large num­ber of re­ports of disease out­breaks on cruise ships in

Most of these vi­ral pathogens cause symp­toms ap­prox­i­mately 36 to 48 hours af­ter con­tact with an in­fec­tious in­di­vid­ual. The most com­mon viruses that cause cold symp­toms are the rhi­noviruses and coro­n­aviruses. These viruses are spread from per­son to per­son by res­pi­ra­tory droplets and do not gen­er­ally cause se­vere ill­ness. They can, how­ever, af­fect dive plans by mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to breathe through a reg­u­la­tor or in­hibit­ing a diver’s abil­ity to equalise pres­sure in the ears or si­nuses. While over-the-counter med­i­ca­tions may ease symp­toms, they may also have prob­lem­atic side ef­fects or wear off at in­op­por­tune times. Some over-the-counter prepa­ra­tions are ad­ver­tised as cu­ra­tive but in fact are mostly nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments with no proof of their ef­fec­tive­ness. Most doc­tors trained in dive medicine will ad­vise pa­tients with acute ill­ness against div­ing – es­pe­cially if the ill­ness war­rants the use of med­i­ca­tion.

One prob­lem­atic group of res­pi­ra­tory viruses is those that cause in­fluenza (“the

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