Feeling Sick After Scuba Diving?

Last Updated: November 29, 2023

Have you been feeling sick after scuba diving? Like all good things, even diving comes at a cost. A lot of people experience some kind of sickness after diving. This should not be shrugged off as discomfort. It could mean a lot of things and if not dealt with at the right time, can cause some serious health issues.

How To Prevent Sickness After Scuba Diving?

The risk of falling sick does not mean you should never go scuba diving. You can take certain measures to ensure your best health.

feeling sick after scuba diving

These precautions eliminate the risk of falling ill after diving to a great extent.

  • Do not dive on an empty stomach. It increases the risk of motion sickness. Having a filling meal about an hour before is a good idea. Avoid greasy and acidic foods though.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, or any other form of intoxication before you dive.
  • Ensure you get plenty of rest before taking the plunge. Exhaustion will be your enemy.
  • Your chances of falling sick increase with time. Take short dives to avoid this.
  • If you feel uncomfortable during a dive, abort it. Shrugging off any symptoms only makes it worse.
  • Under no circumstances should you hold your breath underwater. It can cause irreparable damage to your lungs.
  • There are a lot of medicines available for consumption before a dive. They can help in avoiding nausea and vertigo while scuba diving.
  • You can also try natural remedies like ginger, licorice, or peppermint. These are a few common remedies popular among divers.
  • Never dive alone. Going underwater is risky, so you should always go with a diving buddy if things go south.
  • Always check your gear. You cannot afford to be lax when it comes to ensuring the condition of your equipment.
  • Be well versed with your dive signals. Often, they will be your only mode of communication underwater.
  • While underwater, take regular safety stops. These are small stops, generally 3 to 5 minutes, taken during ascent.
  • Do not interact with marine life. You may encounter a whole new spectrum of species, ones you’ve never seen before. Please resist the temptation to touch them. It is vital for their safety and your own.

While these precautions will work as a safeguard, you may still encounter some troubles.

Let’s look at some of the common conditions experienced by scuba divers on their adventures.


Diving often leaves you with a sense of discomfort in your stomach, commonly known as nausea. You may feel like throwing up. This happens because of a mismatch of sensory inputs. Simply put, what you see and feel does not match.

When you’re back on the boat, you feel stable. However, your eyes tell you that you are moving. It causes discomfort and may lead to dizziness. It is suggested that you get back in the water as soon as possible. Once you’re back in the water, you will be moving with it, as well as feeling the movement of the water. This will gradually stop the sickness.

A fairly common practice to prevent nausea after diving is to take a motion sickness medicine before getting on the boat. Although, you must ensure that the medication you are taking is an anti-drowsy variant. You do not want to feel sleepy underwater.


Feeling off-balance after diving? That’s vertigo. You may feel like yourself, or your surroundings are spinning when in reality, everything is still. This usually happens during ascent or descent due to an imbalance between your left and right ear. Pressure variations between the two ears lead to disorientation.

If you experience vertigo after diving only temporarily, it might not be much of an issue. There are even some exercises you could try, that are intended to end the symptoms of vertigo faster. Some of the effective ones are: Epley maneuver, Semont maneuver and Brandt-Daroff exercise.

However, if the problem persists for hours or even days, it should be taken seriously. You may require medical treatment in such a scenario. Using ascent/descent lines is an excellent way to steer clear of vertigo. They lend a sense of tactile connection.


Dizziness is a common phenomenon experienced by divers. The deeper you go, the higher are your chances of feeling dizzy. It is caused by an imbalance in pressure between the ears. You may think that you are not in control and get anxious.

A good way to avoid dizziness after diving is to ensure that you are in good physical condition before taking the plunge. You should not go into the blue if you have a cold or are suffering from congestion. If you feel disoriented, find visual cues to help your brain. It will give you better control of your brain if you see something to focus on.


A lot of divers suffer from cough after scuba diving. This happens when the diver ends up inhaling a spray of water into their lungs. It is something that should not be taken lightly, as it may lead to severe effects on the physical as well as mental health. There could be a few possible causes for water entering the body.

Sometimes, there is a small tear in the mouthpiece or exhaust diaphragm of the regulator. There could also be some debris holding the exhaust slightly open. As a result, you could end up inhaling water or even ice crystals in cold water. The water leads to irritation of the lungs, which is why you may be coughing for a while after the dive. It is crucial that mouthpieces are checked frequently to avoid such situations.

What To Do If You Feel Sick After Scuba Diving

what to do if you feel sick after scuba diving

One of the first and easiest things to do in order to overcome sickness after diving is hydrating yourself. Scuba often leaves divers dehydrated. Having a drink of regular water should be adequate. Please do not go for fizzy or warm beverages as they will not help your case. However, caffeine is an acceptable.

Medicines are another possible solution. It is a rather obvious measure and can be found easily. If medicines don’t seem to be helping, it is suggested to consult a doctor at the earliest.

Sometimes being underwater leads to blocked ears. In such a scenario, you simply need to lie down on your side and let gravity do the rest. Wobbling your head might also be helpful. Do not ignore it ears as water does not naturally evaporate from ears. You will have to take steps to get rid of blocked ears. You can try using a hairdryer to evaporate the water but be careful. If you keep the hairdryer too close, it may burn your skin.

Another remedy to deal with sickness after a dive is tilting your head to a side. It helps in giving the brain a different perspective. This is useful in temporarily dealing with nausea or vertigo. You could also ask someone to throw cold water over you. It will shock your body and might kickstart your functions properly.

Decompression Sickness

Decompression illness can be a serious problem and if not addressed properly can lead to serious health problems. So do not shrugg off any symptoms of decompression sickness, as that will only make it worse.

If you feel the bends – joint pain, headache, intense fatigue or rash, you should seek medical help straight away. You can also call the hotline of Divers Alert Network at +1 (919) 684-9111.

What Not To Do After Diving

Now that you know what to do if you feel sick after a dive let’s have a look at what not to do. There are specific activities you should steer clear off after a dive. These may not ordinarily be considered dangerous, but can be serious if done after diving.

  1. Stay away from altitudes. While enjoying the view from a mountain top is a very relaxing activity, you should avoid high altitudes after a scuba dive.
  2. Do not go ziplining. It is a fun sport, but even ziplining is done at a high altitude and is risky after the plunge.
  3. Say no to massages. Yes, massages are meant for relaxation. However, deep tissue massages may increase blood flow, leading to bubble formation.
  4. Avoid hot tubs. Letting loose in a hot tub can rapidly improve circulation and increases the chances of bubble formation.
  5. Say no to alcohol. If you really want to grab a few alcoholic beverages, first fill up on water. Intake alcohol only in regulation.
  6. Do not take flights for at least 24 hours after your dive.

Remember, if the sickness persists for longer than a few hours post the dive, it requires medical attention.

Summing Up

Scuba diving is a fun activity, but it comes with its own risks. This does not mean that we should give it up altogether, but it is our responsibility to be aware of any condition we might feel after diving. With the right set of precautions, we can prevent falling sick up to a great extent. If done correctly, being underwater can be a beautiful experience. However, if you do feel any kind of sickness after scuba diving, you must get it checked by a medical expert as soon as possible.

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