Can You Scuba Before or After Flying?

Can You Scuba Before or After Flying?

Scuba diving is an incredible recreational activity. The ocean is massive and there are more diving spots than most of us would ever be able to get to in our lifetime.

This means that you might end up travelling a lot as a scuba diver and this brings up the question: Can you go scuba diving after flying?

Because you cannot scuba dive within 18 hours before flying, a lot of people think the same is true for flying before diving but it is not, in most cases, true. It is perfectly safe to go for a scuba dive as soon as you get off your flight. However, the biggest danger comes from you possibly being fatigued from the flight.

The main question of this article is can you go scuba diving after flying.

However, it is extremely important that we discuss scuba diving before flying and how long you should wait between diving and flying. Then, we are going to discuss the dangers of flying after diving.

With all of that said, let’s dive into it.

Can You Scuba Dive After Flying?

You can go scuba diving after flying. I would still advise you to be careful if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

When you fly, you are not breathing in compressed oxygen or anything like that. So, the nitrogen levels in your bloodstream are not above the usual level. It is the nitrogen that is left in your body that causes problems after diving 

If you have any pre-existing conditions then it might be a smart move to wait a few hours or even a day before diving. It is always better to be safe than to be sorry.

If you are going to be diving within a few hours after flying, you might want to catch up on your sleep on the flight especially if it is a long flight.

You don’t want to go scuba diving while you are tired.

When you take a long flight it can be quite stressful both physically and mentally. I know that it seems like you are just sitting there doing nothing for a few hours but in reality, the entire experience can be quite taxing.

It is also very important that you let your dive instructor or your diving buddies know that you have recently just landed from a long flight.

This will help them keep an eye on you because if you make one mistake while scuba diving because you are tired from a long flight, it can be quite dangerous.

A plane flying in the sky

Can You Fly After Scuba Diving?

So, this is the complete opposite of the question: Can you fly before scuba diving?

We have seen a lot of people confuse these two questions with their separate answers and this can be quite dangerous. With all of that in mind, let’s finally answer the question:

Can you fly after scuba diving?

You should never fly after scuba diving. This is because you can get what is known as “the bends”. This is a form of decompression sickness.  The easiest way of explaining this is to say that after scuba diving, you will have an increased amount of nitrogen in your body.

What does this all mean though? let’s take a look

As an airplane takes off and starts to get higher, the cabin becomes pressurized. You will notice that while flying, your ears will seem kind of blocked.

That is the cabin regulating its pressure. 

With the increase of pressure in the cabin, the nitrogen in your body will go from being gas and start to form bubbles.

This can affect you in several different ways.

These bubbles can destroy the tissues within your body and the tissue of your organs. If you do not get treatment immediately, it can end up being fatal.

This is something that you learn in any reputable scuba diving course and it is something that you need to always remember.

Look, at the end of the day, just don’t fly after scuba diving.

With all of that being said, let’s take a look and how long you should wait before flying after scuba diving.

How Long Should You Wait Before Flying After Scuba Diving?

There are a lot of different answers to this because each course has its own recommendations.

However, we will be going with the PADI recommendation as this is one of the most popular diving courses.

PADI recommends that you wait between 12 and 18 hours before getting on a plane after scuba diving.

If you made more than one dive in the day then you should wait at least 18 hours. The 12-hour recommendation is used for instances where you only made one non-decompression dive.

What Is “The Bends”?

So, we have already established that the reason why you can scuba dive after flying is because it is not at all similar to flying after scuba diving. In a plane, you are not breathing in nitrogen.

With that in mind, we did also discuss why you should not fly after diving and that is to avoid “the bends”, but what are the bends?

The Bends is also known as “decompression sickness” or DCS. It is extremely dangerous.

DCS is when the nitrogen leftover in your lungs and the rest of your body from breathing in compressed oxygen, rapidly turns from a gas into bubbles.

You can get decompression sickness either from getting on a plane after scuba diving or you can get it from rising up to the surface while scuba diving too quickly.

There are a few other ways of getting it such as leaving a high-pressure environment too quickly but this article is about scuba diving.

A turtle swimming

Factors that make you Susceptible to the Bends

  • Heart muscle birth defects
  • Being older than 30
  • Being female
  • Low cardiovascular fitness
  • A high percentage of body fat
  • Use of alcohol or tobacco
  • Fatigue, seasickness, or lack of sleep
  • Injuries (old or current)
  • Diving in cold water
  • Lung disease

Can Freedivers Get The Bends?

If all of this talk about getting the bends is starting to make you worried that you can get it even when you go freediving. Well, the good news is no you should not be worried about this. 

The reason for this is because when you are freediving, you are not breathing in compressed oxygen. Therefore, the nitrogen levels are not rising in your bloodstream

You should not go freediving after scuba diving. Doing this will put you at risk of getting DCS.

What Are The Symptoms Of The Bends?

So, in an article that revolves around something as dangerous as decompression sickness, I feel like it is my responsibility to highlight a few of the symptoms. This is just in case you decided to get on a plane and fly after scuba diving.

Also, this might help you realise that something is not right and you can call for help.

  • Chest pain
  • Random coughing
  • Skin irritation 
  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive issues
  • Fainting/Unconsciousness
  • Tiredness
  • Joint pain
  • Death

Normally, these symptoms start to occur almost immediately. They can also take up to 24 hours, and this is the most common case.

However, there are reports of some symptoms taking around 3 days to start appearing.

If you have recently been scuba diving, whether or not you got on a plane afterwards, and you start feeling any of these symptoms, it is better to be safe rather than sorry.

So, I recommend that you call a doctor and go see them.

Can The Bends Be Fatal?

This is a part of the article where things get a little bit dark because I have to give you a bit of an unfortunate answer to the question:

Can the bends be fatal?

If you do not seek treatment as quickly as possible, DCS can be fatal. It is vital that you monitor yourself immediately after a dive. If you start to feel any of the symptoms listed above, or any similar symptoms, go see a doctor. 

What Else Should You Avoid Doing After Diving?

Mountains can trigger DCS!

Remember, that the bends are caused by a rapid decrease in air or water pressure. Driving to the top of a mountain that’s between 3000 feet to 10,000 feet puts you at risk.

Ziplining could also put you at risk because most ziplining occurs in mountains.

So check the altitude before you zip-line.

It’s also advisable to avoid deep massages and relaxing in a hot tub. There’s the chance of bubble formation as the body warms up.

You might also want to wait before drinking alcohol because it causes dehydration. It’s one of the causes of DCS. It affects how the body eliminates excess nitrogen.

If you’re the type of person who loves deep-dives (pun intended) and is eager to explore what we’ve been looking at in-depth, I’d suggest you take a scuba diving certification from one of the top dive associations

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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A lot of the times when unfortunate things happen, it is because we tend to have the view that “it will never happen to me”.

You cannot have this mentality when it comes to risking your life. Therefore, I do ask that you practice caution and stick to the rules and regulations of your diving course and/or certification.

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Can You Scuba Before or After Flying FAQs

Paul Fulbrook

Paul Fulbrook is a writer, scuba diver, ex-science teacher and marine biologist. He has a passion for coral reef biology, diving on coral reefs and writing about diving. He also loves cats and his children (sometimes).

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