Breathing compressed gas increases the amount of dissolved inert gas in the body. For this reason, scuba diving always carries the risk for decompression sickness (DCS), a condition popularly known as “the bends.” DCS is caused by the uncontrolled release of gas from the tissues during or after surfacing, and symptoms can be severe or even life-threatening.
Because flying and travel at high altitude exposes the body to additional decompression, divers often worry whether flying will increase decompression stress and make them more susceptible to DCS. Flying to a destination near sea level before diving poses virtually no risk. Flying too soon after diving, however, increases decompression stress, since the pressure in an aircraft cabin is lower than ground-level atmospheric pressure and may provoke DCS.
Please also remember that any post-dive ascent to a higher altitude — even using ground transportation — increases your decompression stress and makes you more susceptible to DCS.
Disclaimer: The Emergency Guide is provided as a reference only. Every effort has been taken to acquire and publish accurate information provided by medical authorities. In case of emergency, always call or have someone CALL 9-1-1.
Information provided by Divers Alert Network (DAN).
For more information, visit DAN.org/Health/Decompression.