Div­ing and safety

New Straits Times - - Heal - Olivia@nst.com.my

DIVERS al­ways post un­der­wa­ter pic­tures of fas­ci­nat­ing and rich ma­rine bio­di­ver­sity in their so­cial me­dia pages. It gives an im­pres­sion, at least to me, that div­ing is all about know­ing how to swim and breathe with an oxy­gen tank strapped to the back.

It was not un­til I signed up for div­ing les­sons with the Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Div­ing In­struc­tors (Padi) that I re­alised there was more to the ac­tiv­ity than just tak­ing beau­ti­ful un­der­wa­ter pic­tures . Dur­ing the three-day course, I found out that div­ing is rec­om­mended ther­apy for those with ma­jor and life-chang­ing in­juries. The weight­less­ness of be­ing un­der­wa­ter re­lieves phys­i­cal pain and en­ables pa­tients to ex­er­cise in a more com­fort­able man­ner.

And it can help with weight loss be­cause div­ing for just one hour can burn 600 calo­ries while warm-wa­ter boat dives burn an av­er­age of 300 calo­ries.

Padi’s cer­ti­fied in­struc­tor Em­manuele Girelli says it is im­por­tant for divers to be cer­ti­fied by med­i­cal doc­tors as a safety pre­cau­tion. To avoid com­pli­ca­tions while div­ing, they must main­tain their fit­ness and stamina with reg­u­lar ex­er­cise and cut out smoking and al­co­hol.

I also re­alised that while div­ing is an ex­cit­ing sport, mishaps can hap­pen, from mild dis­com­fort to life threat­en­ing risks. He says it is im­por­tant to breathe nor­mally while as­cend­ing to the sur­face. There should be a three to five minute pause in be­tween the as­cend­ing dis­tance, to re­duce the risk. “Divers should not hold their breath as it can lead to over-ex­panded lungs. This life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion re­quires re­com­pres­sion in a cham­ber as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Girelli, who has made more than 1,700 dives, says the amount of ni­tro­gen can in­crease if the diver spends too much time or dives too deep into the sea. When the Girelli ad­vises divers to be cer­ti­fied by med­i­cal doc­tors be­fore a dive to de­ter­mine one’s fit­ness. ex­cess ni­tro­gen can­not be elim­i­nated from the body in time, the gas can form in the blood and tis­sues. It leads to de­com­pres­sion sick­ness or “the bends”.

Signs and symp­toms range from paral­y­sis, dizzi­ness, numb­ness, joint pain, breath­ing dif­fi­culty and loss of con­scious­ness. In the worst case sce­nario, it may lead to death.

“All cases of de­com­pres­sion sick­ness, even with mild symp­toms, should be taken se­ri­ously. Other fac­tors that can cause the sick­ness are fa­tigue, de­hy­dra­tion, poor fit­ness, ill­ness, cold and al­co­hol con­sump­tion. Treat­ment in­cludes re­com­pres­sion cham­ber in ad­di­tion to ba­sic aid to re­sus­ci­tate the un­con­scious diver .”

It is also pos­si­ble to suf­fer from hy­pother­mia even in warm wa­ter with a tem­per­a­ture of 30˚Cel­cius as it can ab­sorb heat about 20 times faster than air of the same tem­per­a­ture. An un­con­trol­lable shiv­er­ing while div­ing is a warn­ing sign and a diver should leave the wa­ter im­me­di­ately.

Divers are also at risk of in­jury from haz­ardous aquatic or­gan­isms that sting, punc­ture or bite. When this hap­pens, it is im­por­tant to con­trol the bleed­ing, rinse with salt wa­ter or seek med­i­cal as­sis­tance.

“Ex­po­sure to di­rect sun­light can cause sun­burn or dam­age to the eyes. Wear pro­tec­tive cloth­ing such as a rash guard, ap­ply chem­i­cal-free sun­screen, stay un­der the shade and wear qual­ity sun­glasses to pro­tect the eyes.

“In­creas­ing wa­ter pres­sure may cause dis­com­fort to the cheeks, fore­head and along the nose. To bal­ance the pres­sure, pinch your nose and blow gen­tly against it as you de­scent. An­other method is to take a deep breath be­fore you en­ter slowly into the wa­ter for equal­i­sa­tion.

“If you con­tinue to de­scent with un­equalised air spa­ces, it can lead to ear in­juries. A force­ful or ex­tended equal­i­sa­tion can also cause per­ma­nent in­juries to ears and hear­ing.”

Girelli says it is com­mon to get ex­hausted un­der­wa­ter and ex­pe­ri­ence the feel­ing of air star­va­tion as breath­ing re­sis­tance in­creases with depth. It can be over­come by breath­ing and pac­ing the move­ment slowly.

Divers also need to get suit­able an­ti­mo­tion sick­ness med­i­ca­tion to be taken sev­eral hours be­fore de­par­ture. It can also be avoided by not tak­ing greasy or hard to di­gest foods.

“Due to these po­ten­tial risks, divers must al­ways check their equip­ment and oxy­gen tank, dive with a friend, dive within the scope of their cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, have fre­quent mon­i­tor­ing of depth and air sup­ply, avoid harsh en­vi­ron­ments and con­sider ter­mi­nat­ing a dive in case of bad weather.”

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