Last Updated: February 16, 2022
Coughing, sneezing, and even yawning will open up your throat and lungs and let out lots of pressurized air. This does not necessarily mean water will enter your mouth, but it can drastically change your buoyancy, or even cause you injury if not dealt with properly.
Let’s have a look at the different ways our bodies react to irritants or allergens and what that can mean for you when you scuba dive.
Coughing and Sneezing While Keeping Your Regulator In
When you cough or sneeze, your lungs quickly force a large amount of air out at a high pressure. This is used to clear the esophagus, throat, or sinuses of any blockages, which is usually very useful except for when you need to keep something in your mouth, or you aren’t using your nose to breathe.
In the case of scuba diving, it is very important that your regulator stays in your mouth, otherwise you better be good at holding your breath. One of the simplest solutions to this is to place a hand over your regulator so that when you cough, it does not come flying out.
Sneezing can become a little more difficult as you are not using your nose to breathe, and the pressure keeping your mask on your face can be easily unbalanced. If you sneeze through your nose, the resulting pressure can force your mask off your face slightly, breaking the seal and allowing water to enter.
This is not particularly dangerous on its own – experienced divers know how to clear water from their mask – but for beginners it can be quite disorienting and even cause panic.
What Type of Injury Can I Possibly Get From Coughing or Sneezing?
Coughing and sneezing have the ability to cause some major injuries for divers. The most obvious is a collapsed lung. As your body forces all of that pressurized air out, the pressure of the water surrounding you can cause too much pressure on your lungs, and it can tear. Even a tiny tear is enough to allow air to escape your lungs and begin building pressure around them, stopping you from breathing.
The other most prominent injury is a perforated eardrum, when the pressure suddenly changes drastically. Perforated eardrums cause sudden, intense pain that can be incredibly disorienting.
Even more dangerous, perforated eardrums can cause dizziness, or vertigo, which can lead to divers swimming down when they think they are swimming up. Perforated eardrums can also have long lasting effects such as tinnitus or hearing loss.
How Do I Know if I’m Well Enough to Dive?
Maybe you’ve had a cold or the flu, but you have a dive planned and you don’t want to miss out. Working out whether it is safe for you to dive should be your top priority. Here are three things you should think about before diving:
1. Can You Breathe Normally Through Each Nostril?
Being able to breathe through each nostril is important, as it shows how clear or blocked your sinuses are. Blocked sinuses can cause major pain and discomfort when underwater. Block one nostril and breathe in and out normally, then try it on the other side. If you find that you have mucus moving around or you need to breathe harder than usual, you may need to postpone your dive.
2. How Physically Fit Do You Feel?
When we have a cold or the flu, it can take a lot of energy to recover fully. This is why you can feel fatigued or exhausted even days after your head has cleared up. Make sure that you feel like you have the energy to go on the dive you have planned. You can test this out by performing a normal exercise routine and compare how you feel to how you would normally.
3. Are You Taking Medicine That Could Increase Anxiety?
Popular decongestants such as Sudafed, Dimetapp and Afrin can cause anxiety as a side effect. This can make you react differently than you normally would if a problem occurs, which is not going to help you solve the problem. Make sure that you take a decongestant that you have had before so you know exactly what it will do and how long it will last.
You can see a full set of questions in this handy guide here.
So there you have it. Whether you came here as an avid diver, or someone who wants some extra quiz night trivia, let us know if this info helped you.
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.