Asthma and Scuba Diving

Divers with asthma may have some concerns about scuba diving, but with proper preparation and understanding of the risks, asthma should not be a barrier to enjoying this activity.

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the lungs and airways, making it difficult to breathe. In people with asthma, the airways are always inflamed and can narrow when exposed to triggers such as cold air, exercise, or allergies. This can cause symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

While diving, asthmatics may be exposed to triggers like dust particles or salt water, which can exacerbate symptoms. Additionally, the physical exertion of diving can make it difficult to breathe. For these reasons, it is important that divers with asthma take precautions before diving.

With proper preparation and understanding of the risks involved, people with asthma can safely enjoy scuba diving.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that inflames and narrows the airways. People with asthma have difficulties breathing. An asthma attack can be terrifying. The airways constrict, making it hard to get air in or out. People often feel like they are suffocating and may feel like they are going to die.

Types of Asthma

There are two main types of asthma: allergic (extrinsic) and non-allergic (intrinsic). Allergic asthma is caused by an allergy to a particular substance, such as dust, animal fur, or pollen. Non-allergic asthma is not caused by an allergy, but may be triggered by exercise, cold air, or other irritants.

Asthma Symptoms

While the symptoms of asthma can vary from person to person, there are some common signs and symptoms that signal an asthma attack may be coming on. If you or your child experience any of the following, it’s important to seek medical help right away:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Trouble sleeping due to coughing or wheezing
  • A whistling or squeaky sound when breathing
  • Frequent colds that hang on for more than a week, particularly if they include a cough

Asthma Triggers

There are many things that can trigger an asthma attack. Some people only have symptoms during certain times of the year, or when they are around certain animals. Others may have symptoms all the time. The most common triggers are:

  • Allergens (things that cause allergies), such as pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander
  • Respiratory infections, such as colds and flu
  • Exercise
  • Cold air
  • Air pollution and irritants, such as cigarette smoke
  • Certain medications, such as beta blockers
  • Some foods and food additives
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Stress and strong emotions

Can You Dive with Asthma?

If you have asthma, you might be wondering if you can still scuba dive. The good news is that you can dive with asthma, but there are a few things you need to know before you dive. Let’s get into the details.

Diving with Exercise-Induced Asthma

Diving with exercise-induced asthma is generally not recommended. This is because diving is a physical activity that can trigger asthma symptoms.

There are a few exceptions, however. Some divers with asthma are able to control their symptoms with medication and/or by using a preventative inhaler prior to diving. If you have exercise-induced asthma and are interested in diving, talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to do so.

Diving with Allergic Asthma

It is estimated that 5-10% of the general population and up to 20% of elite athletes have asthma. The prevalence of exercise-induced asthma (EIA) is even higher. It has been estimated that nearly 50% of asthmatics have EIA. Despite these high rates, people with asthma participate in a wide variety of sports including scuba diving.

There are two types of asthma, allergic and non-allergic. Allergic asthma is caused by an allergy to a specific trigger such as dust, pollen or animal dander. Non-allergic asthma is not caused by an allergy but may be triggered by cold weather, exercise or other irritants. People with allergic asthma may also have non-allergic triggers.

Divers with allergic asthma need to be particularly careful because they are at risk for anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction to an allergen. Anaphylaxis can occur even if a person has never had a reaction before. If you have allergic asthma, it is important to carry your inhaler with you when you dive and to know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.

People with non-allergic asthma can often control their symptoms with medication and do not have to avoid diving altogether. However, it is important to talk to your doctor about your particular condition and make sure you understand the risks involved in diving with asthma.

Diving with Chronic Asthma

It is possible to dive with chronic asthma, but it is important to get clearance from a diving doctor first. There are a few things that need to be considered before giving the green light to dive. First, is the asthmatic under control? This means that the asthma is well managed and the person has little to no symptoms while they are on land. Second, how severe is the asthma? Severe asthma may make diving more difficult or dangerous. Lastly, what are thetriggersthat bring on an asthma attack? If the trigger is something that can be found underwater, such as cold water or poor air quality, it might be best to avoid diving.

If you have chronic asthma and want to dive, talk to your doctor about it. They will be able to help you determine if it is safe for you to dive and what precautions you should take.

Managing Asthma While Diving

Divers with asthma may have some concerns about whether it is safe for them to dive. There is no reason why people with asthma cannot dive, but it is important to be aware of the potential risks and how to manage them. This article will provide an overview of asthma and how it can affect diving, as well as some tips on how to manage asthma while diving.

Pre-Dive Preparation

As with scuba diving, asthma is managed by a combination of preparation, avoidance of triggers and the use of medication. Good preparation is essential for anyone with asthma who wants to dive, regardless of the severity of their condition.

Before diving, it is important to:

  1. Get a comprehensive medical checkup, including a breathing test (spirometry), from your doctor.
  2. Make sure your asthma is under good control and that you are using the right medication for your Asthma Management Plan.
  3. Get a note from your doctor confirming that you have asthma and are fit to dive, if you plan to dive with a commercial diving operation. This is generally not required if you plan to dive with a private instructor or club.
  4. Make sure you have your rescue medications with you when you dive, in case you have an asthma attack underwater.

In-Water Management

There are certain considerations that need to be taken when diving with asthma. Most importantly, you need to have your asthma under good control before you dive. This means working with your doctor to get your asthma under control and making sure that you have a comprehensive management plan in place.

Once you have your asthma under good control, there are a few things that you can do to make diving easier. First, it is important to stay hydrated. This means drinking plenty of fluids both before and after diving. It is also important to avoid dehydration while diving by drinking plenty of water during breaks.

Second, it is important to warm up before diving. This can be done by swimming slowly for a few minutes before starting your dive. This will help loosen up your muscles and make it easier to breathe.

Third, it is important to use a rescue tube when diving. This will help you stay afloat if you have an asthma attack while diving. fourth, it is important to use a dive mask with an integrated snorkel. This will help you stay calm and avoid exacerbating your asthma symptoms.

Finally, it is important to have an emergency plan in place in case you have an asthma attack while diving. This should include having someone on the surface who knows about your condition and can provide assistance if needed. It is also important to carry any medication that you might need into the water with you.

Post-Dive Management

It is important to be proactive in the management of your asthma, both before and after diving. Many asthmatics use their inhaler more frequently after diving, even if they have not had an asthma attack. This is because the bronchi are still inflamed and reactive from being exposed to the cold water. It is important to continue using your prescribed medications for several hours after diving, as well as to monitor your symptoms closely. If you experience any difficulty breathing, wheezing, or chest tightness, you should seek medical attention immediately.


After reading this guide, you should have a better understanding of the risks and benefits of scuba diving for asthmatics. While there is no definitive answer on whether or not it is safe for asthmatics to dive, the decision ultimately depends on the individual’s level of asthma control and their willingness to take certain risks. If you have asthma and are interested in diving, make sure to talk to your doctor and a certified diving instructor to make sure that you understand all of the risks involved.

The Dive Flag