Does Scuba Diving Cause a Sore Throat?
We have all suffered from a sore throat. Whether you had a cold or lost your voice from singing your heart out at a concert, sore throats are a pain!
You might have heard of some Scuba divers suffering from such an annoyance while on a diving trip. The last thing you want to be thinking about while you are gliding along a coral reef is how itchy your throat feels!
A sore throat is not always caused by Scuba diving itself, but can be triggered by certain aspects, making it worse while Scuba diving!
In this article we will have a look at the answers to some of these common questions:
- Does Scuba Diving Cause A Sore Throat?
- Why Can Scuba Diving Cause A Sore Throat?
- Preventing Sore Throats
- Throat Infections
Does Scuba Diving Cause A Sore Throat?
The short answer to this question is it should not! Most Scuba divers do not endure sore throats from Scuba diving. However, some people will be more susceptible to an irritated throat than others!
To answer this question properly, we will have to look at the possible reasons why Scuba Diving might give some people a sore throat!
Why Can Scuba Diving Cause A Sore Throat?
Scuba divers breathe compressed, dry air through regulators, straight from a tank. Breathing this dry air can cause some divers, not everybody, to have a dry mouth and sore throat.
We usually breathe moist atmospheric air on the surface; therefore, this sensation can cause issues for some divers!
Scuba diving tanks are filled with compressed air. The same air that we breathe normally from day to day. During the compression stage of filling a tank, water vapour is removed from the air. This process is to protect the inside of the cylinder and regulators from rusting.
As a result, the air Scuba divers breathe is as dry as the Sahara! Most Scuba divers breathe this with no issues whatsoever, without even realising it is dry! Unfortunately for some, this dry air can create a dry mouth feeling which could lead to a sore throat.
Diving multiple times a day, your throat can start to feel a bit parched, without sufficient time to recover!
Breathing this dry air does not affect everyone, unfortunately, some people are more sensitive to this sensation.
But if this does not affect everyone, could something else be causing a sore throat? Yes! Dehydration!
Suffering from dehydration can make your throat feel bone-dry and irritated while diving. Therefore sore throats might not only be caused by the dry air! This is one reason why it is important to drink lots of fluids while Scuba Diving.
Not only does hydration prevent Dehydration, but it can also decrease the risks of any injury, such as Decompression Sickness.
Dehydration can make you more susceptible to a sore throat, than a diver keeping up with their fluids!
It is hard to imagine that you can become so dehydrated by being submerged in the water itself. However, Scuba Divers lose a lot of fluids due to breathing a dry gas, temperature regulation and immersion diuresis.
Water is an excellent conductor of heat. When submerged, Vasoconstriction occurs to prevent heat loss, and blood flows to your vital organs. Your kidneys misconstrue this as a fluid overload, immediately producing urine and causing you to need a pee!
When your bladder fills with urine and you are agonisingly fighting the urge to go, you might find yourself having to pee in your wetsuit! Yes, we have all done it! Don’t be shy!
Not only are there health risks withholding in your urine, but it is also incredibly uncomfortable! Do not hold back when you need to urinate, just make sure to clean your wetsuit properly afterwards! (Otherwise, it can get a bit stinky!)
This issue of ‘to pee or not to pee’ should never deter you from drinking plenty of fluids before a dive. Drinking water throughout the day is so important, to not only reap the multiple health benefits of hydration but to prevent increasing the risk of Decompression Sickness and other Scuba diving injuries.
The risks of Scuba diving are decreased with quality training and practice. But sometimes, accidents happen. Make sure you always travel with Scuba Diving Insurance, just in case!
During a Scuba diving trip, possibly to a beautifully hot and humid country, you will find yourself sweating more. Without drinking enough fluids, sweating throughout the day in addition to peeing in your wetsuit, can increase the risk of dehydration.
Replacing this lost water is crucial!
While on a Scuba diving trip, get into the good habit of drinking lots of water during the morning, before and after the dive! You might find that your throat does not feel so dry when you are hydrated!
Can You Prevent A Sore Throat?
Potential ways to reduce the likeliness of suffering from a sore throat while scuba diving, include specific Scuba Diving equipment such as a full-face mask, or certain types of regulators which can raise the temperature of incoming air!
Just like getting sick, a sore throat can never be completely prevented. But the methods mentioned above are a good place to start if you are prone to a sore throat!
You can also improve your breathing rate, stay hydrated and even enjoy a sweet treat between dives to get that saliva flowing!
As you breathe out your mouth, the exhaled air carriers water vapour from your lungs. This air within the mask is a little warmer and moister than air directly from a regulator.
However, just like a mouthpiece regulator, the air entering the full face mask is still dry and compressed, but with some harshness removed.
You might be thinking, if the air is moist, won’t the mask fog up? But no! Full face masks are awesome, right?
Some Scuba divers claim they do not feel a dry mouth or throat when diving with NITROX (Mixtures of air with different oxygen concentrations). However, the air is still compressed in a tank, making it cold and dry when inhaled. Perhaps this benefit of NITROX is down to personal preference! You might feel a difference, or you might not.
Rebreathers are a special system used by technical divers, to recycle the air that they breathe. Rebreathers contain a chemical reaction that scrubs the carbon dioxide from their exhaled breath. Such a reaction warms and humidifies the air slightly, which is not as cold and dry.
This sounds like an awesome benefit of rebreathers! But we are not all going to go out and buy a rebreather just to prevent a sore throat! (They are a big investment!).
So, what else can Scuba divers do to avoid this scratchy irritating sensation?
Proper hydration is by far the most important.
As mentioned above, there are many health benefits to being hydrated, both on the surface and while Scuba diving. Drinking fluids between dives can replace the moisture lost within your throat and help subside any discomfort on the next dive!
Another little trick you might want to try is sucking on hard candies between dives to get the salivary glands flowing! Eating sweets is only acceptable between dives, do not try this during! You do not want to receive back blows underwater because you choked on your rhubarb and custard sweets!
Good physical fitness and air consumption can help regulate your breathing during a dive. Taking slow deep breaths, will decrease the amount of inhales and exhales.
Slow steady breaths are much better than multiple short sharp breaths, not only for your throat but to remove ‘dead air spaces’ from your lungs. This is a term used to describe the air spaces within your respiratory system that does not perform the gaseous exchange.
Dead air spaces in the lungs are commonly experienced by a panic diver when taking short sharp breaths. Dead air spaces are easily removed with deep inhalation and exhalation, to maximise your gaseous exchange.
If you are a cold-water diver or find that the cold air is too much for your throat, there are some more options to try! Special cold-water regulators are designed to withstand the cold water and make your diving experience more comfortable!
Diving in water less than 15ºC/60ºF, your Scuba diving equipment should be cold water designed!
Coldwater regulators have heat exchange ribs in the first stage, dispersing the cold received from the first stage, into the surroundings. These metal fins can also draw warmth from ambient water, slightly increasing the temperature felt while breathing.
But what if you already have a sore throat? Read on to find out more!
Throat infections are usually caused by a cold or flu and can be resolved on their own! If you are suffering from a bad throat infection, you should wait until it feels better before Scuba diving as the dry air will irritate it. If you do not have any symptoms or congestion, it is possible to continue Scuba diving.
Being well hydrated with good air consumption, the average Scuba diver does not normally suffer from a sore throat. Having a sore throat that you cannot beat; might mean you have a throat infection!
On the surface, your throat might feel perfectly fine, yet breathing the cold dry air is likely to irritate it. If this happens, wait until your throat is back to normal before diving again.
Sore throats are usually coupled with congestion. It is important not to Scuba dive with congestion or symptoms of a cold. Scuba diving with congestion can cause Sinus Squeeze, which is incredibly painful and something you want to avoid!
If a sore throat persists you should get it checked by a doctor. Before returning to Scuba Diving after sickness or disease, it is important to be cleared by a doctor.
This is not only for peace of mind but to make sure you are fit and healthy enough to go diving!
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:
Scuba diving does not usually cause a sore throat! During a long or especially cold dive, you are likely to become aware of the lack of moisture within the air. This sensation can be uncomfortable but does not last for long!
Preventing a sore throat can be as easy as drinking water! Tricks such as steady breathing and cold-water regulators can improve your Scuba diving comfort and keep that sore throat at bay!
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