Over the many years that we have been offering recompression services we have heard and come across many diving and decompression illness myths. These are things you may well have heard or seen yourself and some of them are collected together here to set the record straight!
You can’t get a bend in shallow water
Decompression sickness is not totally dependent on deep/long dives. Uncontrolled or even controlled successive ascents in a short period, such as those experienced during pool training, can cause microbubbles to form in the blood stream, leading to DCI.
I didn’t miss any stops, so I cannot be bent
Tables and computers do not take into account factors such as the ‘party last night’, getting too cold, dehydration, tiredness, stress and general health. There are many factors that can increase your chances of getting a bend and your body’s susceptibility will vary day by day. So, the same dive profile performed on a different day may lead to different outcomes.
If I do get a bend, will I be at further risk on future dives
If a bend has been treated quickly and appropriately and there is no underlying cause, you should be free to continue your diving. Where there is a delay to treatment, outcomes are less predictable but normally favourable. If left untreated, it can increase the risk of further decompression illness on future dives.
A skin rash is nothing to worry about
A skin rash can be a sign of decompression illness. The skin, particularly over the torso, can appear blotchy and mottled or ‘marbled.’ It may also become itchy and in some cases raised. It is caused by gas bubbles forming in the skin and irritating it.
It is an indication that there is likely to be further gas loading in other areas and may precede serious decompression illness. Skin rashes of this type require examination and possible treatment to prevent progression and long-term damage.
My buddy is fine so I must be
Each person’s physiology is different. Two people can do exactly the same dive profile and one may experience decompression illness while the other does not. However, if one diver has symptoms then it is advisable that the dive buddy(ies) are also examined.
If my computer is saying everything is fine, I must be
In its basic form a computer works out algorithms based on time/depth profiles and ascent rate. Although a dive may have been carried out within the parameters of the computer, a diver may still experience decompression illness.
I just need a little lie down and some 02 and I will be fine
If you feel the need to go on oxygen at all following a dive then a hyperbaric chamber should be contacted, via the Coastguard if at see, as a matter of urgency. If any symptoms are present and they then improve on breathing oxygen then decompression illness is the most likely cause.
I felt ok before I dived, now I feel dreadful. Could it be because of the dive itself?
Decompression illness can cause tiredness, lethargy and a feeling of being generally unwell. As a symptom it is often not recognised. Administering oxygen is the recommened first aid measure and specialist medical advice should be sought.
If I go to a hyperbaric unit will I be put into a chamber
A medical examination will be carried out, with dive history, medical history and other factors taken into account. Any symptoms considered attributable to decompression illness will result in recompression treatment being advised.
Instead of recompression, certain cases may indicate that further medical investigations may be required. In others, the diver may be discharged following examination having been given the ‘all clear.’
My symptoms started hours after I surfaced so it can’t be a bend
Most symptoms will manifest themselves during the dive or within a few minutes of completion. However, decompression illness should be considered for any symptoms experienced up to 36 hours after a dive. Flying or travelling in mountainous terrain after diving can increase the risk of decompression illness due to the pressure changes.
I have symptoms and can go back in-water to treat myself
Symptoms cannot be safely and effectively treated in-water, even by using elevated levels of oxygen. DCI is an evolving illness, treating in-water is risky. Be aware of how to access your nearest recompression chamber.
These are just some of the dangerous myths uncovered in recent years!