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What are the Dangers of Scuba Diving?

Protective gear should be worn to protect scuba divers from sharp coral.
Since divers can become disoriented when submerged, they often wear prismatic compasses that can help them navigate when underwater.
Because even experienced divers can sustain injuries or experience problems that require first aid, it is always safer to dive with a partner than to go solo.
A scuba diver needs to learn the right rate of ascent to avoid the bends.
Scuba divers need to be careful when examining ships that have wrecked.
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  • Written By: D Frank
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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Scuba diving offers a wonderful way to view the intriguing underworld of any ocean or lake. To be a competent scuba diver, one should take a scuba certification class offered at a wide array of diving schools worldwide. Scuba certification classes can help newcomers to the sport prepare for the dangers they may encounter. Advanced certification classes are also available to help experienced divers to continue to gain more scuba diving knowledge and experience. Scuba dives should never dive alone and they should always make certain their gauges, tanks, and other equipment are functioning properly.

The average person may think that sharks and other large fish might present a clear and present danger for scuba divers. To the contrary, sharks and other large fish account for almost none of the 100 scuba deaths that occur each year, according to the Diver's Alert Network. Most shark attacks occur when the victims are standing or swimming in water close to the shore.

The greater concern for the perils associated with scuba come into play if someone has not been properly trained or certified. Such a person may ascend too quickly to the water's surface, resulting in the dreaded condition known as the bends, a decompression sickness with effects that can range from discomfort and vomiting to paralysis and even death.

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Most diving injuries pertain to ear problems and sinus problems. When a person experiences middle ear pain and discomfort due to the pressure changes inherent in scuba diving, doctors refer to this as a "squeeze." Other typical injuries affiliated with scuba diving are cuts and scrapes from fish, coral, and shipwrecks.

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers these additional tips for safe diving:

  • Gently equalize your ears and mask as you descend.
  • Never hold your breath while ascending. Always ascend slowly while breathing normally.
  • Always dive with a buddy.
  • Never drink alcohol before a dive.
  • If you're taking medication, check with a doctor before diving.
  • Also consult your doctor if you have any medical conditions.
  • Don't fly for 12 hours after a no-decompression dive, 24 hours if your dive required decompression stops.
  • If you don't feel well or are in any kind of pain after your dive, get to the nearest emergency room.

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Discuss this Article

anon292807
Post 18

I was told by a scuba instructor that if you go under water while breathing from an oxygen tank and then resurface without breathing from the tank that you risk getting the bends. Is that accurate?

I'm curious about this because all too often in movies, you see someone underwater, say stuck in a submerged car, and they take a breath from the scuba tank then resurface. Is this just another case of a movie taking liberties with reality or can you resurface without a tank and not risk any harm?

rustyinreda
Post 17

Question: One of my fiance's friends just died after a scuba diving training class. All I know is when he came to the surface he was alert and I do not believe there was any visible injury. He was young and healthy, in his 20's. What could have killed him?

anon133487
Post 16

To: anon11026 - I answer your questions with pleasure. You are apparently considering scuba diving and are asking thoughtful questions.

I found this web page by accident really but I want to honestly answer your questions. My husband and I began scuba diving almost 10 years ago. I'm not sure about him but I've always been ready to just jump into the water. This could be off a pier or a boat, in a lake, river or ocean! I've always been comfortable in the water and the only problem I've ever had scuba diving was that I had a crappy instructor that hurried us through the course and I had to learn "despite" him as he did not prepare me properly.

Anyway, diving is the best thing that has ever happened to my husband and me. Just being underwater and enjoying a different world is amazing, relaxing and really just the ultimate experience. Now I know that not everybody can experience this, but you can. You must just be itching for it but are a bit leery. Take my advice and take the plunge.

In answer to your concerns. First, we really don't touch anything underwater. The worst thing we can come into contact with is fire coral, but, if you touch nothing, it won't make you burn. Even after all these years of diving, my husband and I wear some thickness of wetsuits just to be on the safe side should we accidentally brush up against something.

Secondly, there should be no problem with any animals underwater unless you somehow corner them or stick your hand in holes where they live, really nothing like that should ever happen, and has never happened to anybody we know, nor to us.

Last, but certainly not least, you are asking all of the important, smart, thoughtful questions. As for air, you have two sources of air on you at all times: one for you and and one for somebody else who might need it. This has never happened to us in 10 years and over 300 dives, but it's there, just in case.

Now, as for running out of air: first, you have gauges that will tell you how much air you have and how long it will last and at what depth. If your regulator were to fail(the thing in your mouth that you breathe air through) it won't quit giving you air -- it will actually begin free-flowing air, which will indicate that you ought to think about ending your dive and get your buddy and come on back up on the boat!

Next, if anything were to "leak" it can only be the air in your tank and if that were to happen the pressure gauge that you put on it and check throughout your dive will show that. Plus, you will probably hear the bubbles from the leak even before it shows on your gauge. Also, nothing can blow up!

Your questions will be answered when you take your certification course but I would like to add that you should just relax and go for it. The only fear is fear itself -- literally. Bottom line: you'll be glad you tried scuba diving!

anon122306
Post 15

The No 5 tip is absolutely true and would be great if every diver keeps the tips in mind.

anon100047
Post 14

I have a one star licence. Once when I was at 18 meters deep, my regulator did not supply the air so then I tried the second one but it did not work either. It was an awful situation.

Since I was very close to my buddy I used his spare regulator. But it was really a very bad situation because you face the fact that you cannot breath after you exhaled all the air inside your lungs. This is why I always think that such a situation my arise and think about what to do if such an event occurs.

Also, check to make sure all equipment is functioning properly before diving and do not be away, more than 1-2 meters, from your buddy.

By the way, the reason I was not getting air from the regulator was a half opened tank valve. Check that thoroughly. Have good and safe diving.

anon80692
Post 13

No 8 - If you let go of your console it will always hang downwards.

anon78008
Post 12

diving is not dangerous. it is the diver because unlike the saying, "what you don't know can't hurt you," what you don't know in diving will kill you if you are not trained to do it. so all good buddies out there, get trained and stay safe.

anon69641
Post 9

One risk the agencies such as PADI and NAUI do not want you to know about (because they are not willing to police it) is contaminated air. 3-5 percent of compressed air samples sent for routine testing fail the standard for grade E air; that is, they contain concentrations of carbon monoxide higher than 10 ppm.

This can happen even with electric powered compressors if cheap filters are used, the compressor is not well ventilated and/or if cheap oil is used (pyrolysis). In-Line CO monitors would prevent this but most operations are too cheap to install them.

Breathing carbon monoxide at depth is much more dangerous because the pressure amplifies the concentration of the gas at surface pressure.

If you engage in diving, it is best to test each and every tank with your own personal CO monitor because, if you don't, sooner or later you will get hit with contaminated air. Note: the smell test is not good enough because it is possible for the filter to remove the smell of combustion products but leave the CO, which is odourless.

anon56404
Post 8

how do you know you're swimming to surface if you forget which way?

anon37443
Post 5

the most dangerous part of diving is human error and inexperience. not inspecting your kit and having a fault underwater, ascending too quickly from too deep and causing lung over expansion injuries and decompression sickness. running out of air and not being in a reachable distance of your buddy resulting and an emergency ascent, hypothermia. all these things are taught to you when you go for a qualification, and you're taught how to avoid situations. diving is one of the safest sports as long as you take in what you have been taught and apply it when you dive. if you think you're above physics then dont dive. you have to fill out medical forms before you even learn to eliminate potential risks, you dont pass you dont dive. the animals will leave you alone if you leave them alone. general rule of diving is look dont touch, this incudes corals and such as those can also cause you irritation. you get oriented at a site before you dive so you know what to expect. as long as you follow what you learned you'll be absolutely fine. as said before the only real issue for divers is human error. if you plan properly you take that from the equation. pretty much every situation has been covered by your tutors and you will know how to handle situations not only when they arise but in some cases before they arise.

sunshinszy
Post 4

Well you could touch a clear small box jelly fish. You could touch a Crown of thorns, which is a starfish. So....keep your hands to yourself. There is also a chance of having an air embolism, which also will kill you. Running out of air. Getting lost or disoriented. Just not being trained to dive can pretty much kill you. So get good training and always ask what is in the waters you are about to dive in.

anon20038
Post 3

That cant be all the dangers there are. More info please!

sourappleblowpop
Post 2

that's not enough danger for you? ;-)

anon11026
Post 1

what are the real dangers of scuba diving? i know that there are a lot of harmful plants and animals and you can always run out of air or something could have a leak or something can blow up but what other things are there?

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