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MEDICAL FAQs

O'Three
Dive Medical questions & answers for common scuba diving conditions and illness provided in conjunction with the doctors at the London Diving Chamber and Midlands Diving Chamber.
All Categories » Respiratory Problems » Gas Embolism

QUESTION

I have been diving for a couple of years now and I am qualified to Rescue Diver level. I have asthma but this is mild and well controlled and only ever presents a problem if I suffer a chest infection (usually about twice a year Autumn/Spring). I had a chest infection recently which has lingered a bit and upset my asthma quite a bit (I had to use prednisolone tablets). I was feeling a lot better and virtually back to normal and decided to dive this weekend (Sat). I did a wreck dive at an inland quarry to a depth of 18 meters. The descent was fine and conducted slowly. On reaching the max depth and beginning to circle the wreck I began to feel that my breathing was a little laboured and uncomfortable. This did not feel like an asthma attack as my breathing wasn't fast or panicked, just heavy and uncomfortable. I immediately signalled the problem to my buddy and we ascended slowly to 5 metres, completed a 3 minute safety stop, and then went to the surface. The total dive time was 18 minutes. Since then I have felt an uncomfortable "heaviness" in my chest and have been quite weak and tired all the time. I have used my reliever inhaler which helps the breathing but does not remove the heaviness. It doesn't feel like regular asthma issues. I am concerned that I may have done some damage to an already weakened chest. Could it just be worsened asthma or could I have done some more lasting damage. I have rested since and obviously not dived again. Please advise as I am really concerned. It seems to be getting better with rest but I want to be sure I can't have done any lasting damage. I don't see the point in visiting my own doctor as he has no specialist diving knowledge. Please help!

ANSWER

Yup, you need to see a diving doc asap. And one that works near a dive chamber too. There is a theoretical risk that you could have a DCI here. Lets say the infection had not cleared fully, or there was some sort of gunk plugging your bronchioles, then expanding air could pop an alveoli and release bubbles into the system. This could give you the funny chest feeling, and other symptoms to boot.

So you need lung assessment, and you need it fast.

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