Have You Got SCUBA Diving Insurance?

Posted on 27. Jun, 2014 by in Diving In Cyprus - Dragons Blog

Do You Need To Have SCUBA Diving Insurance?

If I Follow Safe Diving Practices Will This Stop Me From Getting A Decompression illness?

I Always Dive To The Rules So I Will Never Suffer From A DCI, Will I?

The correct answer to the above questions is not simply a Yes or No answer.  As soon as you put your head under the water you are increasing the risk of getting a Decompression illness (or a Bend as it is commonly called).  Carrying out Safe Scuba Diving Practices does not always ensure that you will always be DCI free.

A diver carrying out 2 dives on the Zenobia wreck with 6 other divers was hit by a DCI after the second dive even though all Safe Diving Practices were adhered to and non of the other divers had any effects what so ever!  The diver must have been old, overweight, unfit, hung over or on medication, is what is now going through your mind.  Well let me tell you the diver was 18 years old, with the correct BMI (Body Mass Index), physically fit and not on any medication.  Yet within a few minutes of completing the dive and climbing back on the boat, he felt a tingling in his right leg and within minutes the leg was paralysed.  Without immediate Emergency Oxygen without immediate Emergency Oxygen the paralysis could have been permanent.  Do you carry Emergency Oxygen when you go out diving or have the necessary First Aid Skills to act in such a case?  We will save this for another discussion.  Once the diver was administered Oxygen on site he was then transferred to hospital for tests and then started his 5 hour treatment at the Hyperbaric Chamber.  A follow up treatment the next day for 2 hours and the diver was released fully fit but unable to continue diving for 28 days.  Other than the 28 days out of the water the diver was relatively happy because he had been talked into getting diving insurance.  If he had not taken the insurance out he would be holding a bill for over €18,000, yes €18,000.  That is how much Hyperbaric treatment can cost after a diving incident.  Remember nothing went wrong on the dive, all safe practices were followed and all dive profiles were good!!

So, lets ask ourselves those questions again!  Diving insurance is relatively cheap to cover us for the basics and that is what EVERY DIVER needs, a basic cover.  If you dive regularly or you are a dive professional higher covers can be obtained but you will pay more!

How Can we reduce the risks?

Safe versus dangerous diving – Over the past 20 years diving has become extremely popular, both at home and abroad. But diving is not without its dangers. It’s vital to attend a recognised diving school for training, and subsequently make sure that you keep your skills up to date.

Diving must be planned and carried out in a responsible manner, making sure that first aid equipment and relevant telephone numbers are at hand should an accident take place.

Finally, it’s important to know the signs of decompression sickness and to be able to give first aid to an affected diver.

 What is decompression sickness?

Decompression sickness, also called the bends, is caused by nitrogen bubbles forming in the bloodstream and tissues of the body.  The bubbles occur if you move from deep water towards the surface (where the surrounding pressure is lower) in too short a space of time.  Symptoms occur soon after the dive has finished and, in the most serious cases, it can lead to unconsciousness or death.  If you suspect decompression sickness: stop the dive, initiate first aid, and summon assistance from a specialist in divers’ medicine. Treatment is 100 per cent oxygen on site and during transportation, followed by treatment in a decompression chamber.

 What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of decompression sickness vary because the nitrogen bubbles can form in different parts of the body.  The diver may complain of headache or vertigo, unusual tiredness or fatigue. He or she may have a rash, pain in one or more joints, tingling in the arms or legs, muscular weakness or paralysis. Less often, breathing difficulties, shock, unconsciousness or death may be seen.

The symptoms generally appear in a relatively short period after completing the dive. Almost 50 per cent of divers develop symptoms within the first hour after the dive, 90 per cent within six hours and 98 per cent within the first 24 hours.  In practice this means symptoms that appear more than 24 hours after the dive are probably not decompression sickness.

An exception is if the diver has travelled in an aircraft or has been travelling in the mountains. Under these circumstances, low pressure can still trigger decompression sickness more than 24 hours after the last dive. As a result, it’s wise not to fly within 24 hours of a deep dive.

 What if you or a friend have symptoms?

Stop the dive and keep calm.  If the diver is unconscious, give first aid.  Summon the emergency services immediately.  Breathe pure oxygen if possible.  Avoid over-exertion.  Drink plenty of liquid.

Any unusual condition after a dive could be decompression sickness. So if in doubt, get medical help.

Why does it happen?

Nitrogen makes up 70 per cent of the air we breathe (in the air around us and in our diving cylinders).  During a dive, large amounts of nitrogen are taken into the body’s tissues. This is because the diver is breathing air at a higher pressure than if they were at the surface.  The quantities of dissolved nitrogen depend on the depth and duration of the dive. The deeper and longer the dive, the more nitrogen is taken up by the body. This does not present a problem as long, as the diver remains under pressure.  As the diver begins to ascend to the surface, the surrounding pressure falls, and nitrogen is released from the body via the lungs when the diver breathes out.  If the rate of ascent exceeds that at which nitrogen can be released, it forms bubbles in the blood and tissues (similar to opening a bottle of fizzy drink too quickly).  To minimise the risk of bubbles forming and divers developing decompression sickness, various tables have been drawn up that show the relationship between a given depth of water and the time a diver can stay down.

In addition, divers are informed that diving with a computer and staying within the levels of that computer can reduce the risk of ascending too fast and all computers give you the option of carrying out a safety stop between 3 & 6 meters.  If the dive has been deep or of long duration, it may be necessary to stop one or more times on the way up, making so-called decompression stops.

But following the computer alone is no guarantee of avoiding decompression sickness. This is because the risk of developing decompression sickness is not only determined by the depth and length of the dive, but also by any safety or decompression stops. Factors such as cold, current, exertion and lack of fluid also play a part.

Personal characteristics such as age, sex, percentage of body fat and physical condition must also be considered. Women are more at risk of decompression sickness than men. Similarly, the risk becomes greater the older the diver and also depends on the level of physical fitness.

How is it diagnosed?

In most cases, the diving history (ie information on the number of dives, diving depth, dive time, rate of ascent and decompressions) – as well as information on contributory factors such as cold, current, work and the diver’s physical condition – will give some indication as to whether it could be decompression sickness.

After a thorough examination, which includes investigating balance, coordination, sense of touch, reflexes and muscular strength, the doctor can build up a complete picture to evaluate whether decompression sickness is likely.  The doctor will also decide if the diver requires treatment in a decompression chamber (also called a hyperbaric or recompression chamber).

What measures can be taken to avoid decompression sickness?

Dive within the limits set out in the diving tables.

Keep your rate of ascent to a maximum 15 metres a minute.

Don’t plan any dives that need a decompression stop in the water.

Make a three-minute safety stop at a depth of 5 metres.

Don’t dive more than three times in one day.

If you plan more than one dive in one day, start by making the deepest dive first.

If you are diving for several days in a row, have a dive-free day after two to three days.

Don’t do any hard work before or after diving.

Drink lots of liquid (ideally oral rehydration solutions) before diving. Lack of fluid due to heat or excess alcohol is dangerous.

Make sure you are in good physical condition and well rested. Have regular medical check-ups.

Make sure there is an interval of at least 24 hours between diving and travel by air or climbing up mountains.

Recovery after decompression sickness

Mild forms of decompression sickness can resolve themselves without treatment or by breathing 100 per cent oxygen at the site of the accident.  But if there’s any suspicion of decompression sickness, the diver must be examined by a doctor. This is because, although it might not seem serious at the time, the condition may deteriorate.  If the diver receives treatment at an early stage, the chances of avoiding permanent injury are good. The longer that treatment is delayed, the greater the risk of serious consequences.

You should take a rest from diving after treatment for decompression sickness. The length of this rest depends on the severity of the decompression sickness and the effects of treatment, and they should be discussed with a specialist in divers’ medicine.

How is decompression sickness treated?

There’s no medicine that’s used as a matter of routine in treating decompression sickness.

At the diving site and during transport

100 per cent oxygen by mask, at a rate of 10 to 15 litres a minute.

Give the diver plenty of fluid to drink.

Give first aid if the diver is unconscious.

Prevent the diver from exerting himself or getting cold.

In hospital and specialised centres

A decompression chamber is a steel tank that can be pressurised. There are decompression chambers in various places in the UK – some of these are situated at naval centres. The pressure in a decompression chamber can be increased by closing the doors and pumping air in.  During treatment for decompression sickness, pressure is increased to correspond to the pressure found 18m under water. In some cases, the pressure in the chamber is set at 50 metres.  The diver breathes pure oxygen through a mask, which improves exhalation of nitrogen. At depths in excess of 18 metres, and also after adequate intervals, the mask can be removed in the chamber. Pressure in the chamber is reduced gradually until the diver reaches surface pressure again.

Treatment typically lasts between five and six hours.

Throughout treatment a specially trained helper stays with the diver in the chamber. The diver’s condition is closely monitored by further examination of coordination and balance, sense of touch, etc.  If necessary, the diver’s medical specialist can join the diver in the chamber, but otherwise takes charge of the treatment outside the chamber in co-operation with the specially trained helper.

After treatment, the diver will be kept for 24 hours for observation in case his condition deteriorates.

In most instances one course of treatment is adequate, but occasionally several treatments may be needed.  After treatment for decompression sickness, a diver should take a rest from diving. The length of this rest should be discussed with a specialist in divers’ medicine.

So Lets ask those 3 questions again……

Do You Need To Have SCUBA Diving Insurance?

In some regions of the world the answer is yes but not everywhere, however, it is highly recommended!

If I Follow Safe Diving Practices Will This Stop Me From Getting A Decompression illness?

The only way to be completely free from the possibility of getting a DCI is to not dive!  Following all the rules of diving and looking after your health and fitness will reduce the risk dramatically but not completely.

I Always Dive To The Rules So I Will Never Suffer From A DCI, Will I?

The human body is so complex that you cannot answer this with a simple yes or no answer as there are many variables that can contribute to the onset of a DCI.

The best thing that you can do, other than diving safely and adhering to all rules is ensure you have adequate insurance to cover the type of diving that you do.  Some excellent insurances are Divers Alert Network (DAN) and Aqua Med

 

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