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MEDICAL FAQs

Diving Leisure London
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 » Ear Nose and Throat Problems » Palate

QUESTION

I was born with a cleft lip and palate. I also have a hole in my nasal septum, and have had for around 4 years now. Being totally honest, I used to do cocaine and speed to excess in my London city life. Luckily I saw the light and moved on, and although I still drink and smoke too much, I have since never taken drugs. I was wondering if either of these will cause me problems when diving?

ANSWER

Dealing with the drugs issue is easy Ė diving and drugs donít mix, just as they donít with driving or any other activity that involves sharp mental agility and focus. Alcohol and smoking could arguably be considered in the same drugs category, so minimising your intake of both would be sensible. The physical abnormalities in your nose and palate do present a couple of practical difficulties. To breathe through the mouth alone, we compress the base of our tongue against the back of the hard palate, closing off the nose. With a defect in the palate, this manoeuvre is pretty difficult or impossible. Thus breathing through a regulator with your mask off (an essential skill in diver training) will cause water to be sucked into your nose, and much gagging and coughing will ensue. I think a trip to the ENT doctor would help clarify whether your palate and nasal passages can be patched up (they can insert all sorts of plastic prostheses these days). Your only other option would be to use a full face mask.

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