Safety and Training
Photo of author

First Aid Underwater: Responding to Dive Injuries and Illnesses

When embarking on an underwater adventure, whether you are a novice diver or an experienced sea explorer, it’s crucial to be prepared for the unexpected. Dive injuries and illnesses can strike at any time, making it vital to have a solid understanding of underwater first aid. In this comprehensive guide, we will dive deep into the realm of first aid underwater, exploring how to respond to dive-related injuries and illnesses.

The Abyss Beckons


Diving into the ocean depths brings about immense pressure changes. Barotrauma, a common dive injury, occurs when these pressure changes affect the body. Symptoms include ear pain, nosebleeds, and facial swelling. Knowing how to equalize pressure is essential, and it’s also crucial to ascend slowly to avoid barotrauma.

Barotrauma is a term that all divers should be familiar with, as it’s a common challenge encountered in the underwater world. This condition occurs when the pressure in the environment changes rapidly, affecting the human body. Let’s delve deeper into the complexities of barotrauma and explore how to prevent and manage it effectively.

The Science Behind Barotrauma

The most common form of barotrauma is ear barotrauma, which happens when there’s an imbalance in pressure between the inside and outside of the eardrum. This can lead to painful symptoms, including ear pain, fullness, and even hearing loss. To prevent ear barotrauma, divers must learn how to equalize the pressure in their ears as they descend and ascend.

Sinus Barotrauma

Sinus barotrauma occurs when the pressure change affects the sinuses. Divers may experience facial pain, congestion, and discomfort. To alleviate this condition, it’s important to maintain proper sinus drainage and equalize pressure effectively.

READ MORE  Managing Air Supply Issues: Best Practices for a Safe Resolution

Equalization Techniques

Equalizing the pressure in your ears is a skill every diver should master. To do this, use techniques like the Valsalva maneuver or the Frenzel maneuver. These methods involve pinching your nose and gently blowing, forcing air into the Eustachian tubes to equalize the pressure. Recall that it’s essential to equalize early and often during your descent.

Sinus Relief

Clearing your sinuses before and during a dive is crucial. Use decongestant sprays or nasal rinses as directed by your healthcare provider to ensure your sinuses are clear and ready for the pressure changes that come with diving.

Ear Barotrauma Response

If you or your dive buddy experience ear barotrauma, it’s essential to ascend slowly while continuously attempting to equalize. If the symptoms persist or worsen, abort the dive and seek medical attention to rule out any complications.

Sinus Barotrauma

In the case of sinus barotrauma, ascending slowly and attempting to equalize can help relieve symptoms. However, if the discomfort continues, it’s advisable to discontinue the dive and consult with a healthcare professional to ensure there are no underlying issues.

Taming the Pressure Beast

Barotrauma is a challenge every diver can overcome with the right knowledge and skills. By understanding the science behind it, practicing effective equalization techniques, and seeking relief when necessary, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable dive. Recall that barotrauma is just one of the many factors to consider when exploring the deep blue. Stay informed, stay prepared, and keep diving safely. Happy and safe diving!

Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness, often referred to as “the bends,” is a serious dive-related illness. When nitrogen bubbles form in the bloodstream due to rapid ascents, it can lead to excruciating joint pain, dizziness, and even paralysis. If you or your dive buddy show signs of the bends, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention and administer oxygen therapy.

READ MORE  Navigating Currents: Advanced Strategies for Safe and Efficient Diving


While diving, exposure to cold water can cause hypothermia. Shivering, confusion, and difficulty in swimming are typical symptoms. Wrapping up in a thick wetsuit and staying close to your dive buddy can help prevent this underwater chill.


Drowning is a risk, even for experienced divers. Panic, equipment failure, or strong currents can lead to this dire situation. Ensure you are well-trained in buoyancy control, maintaining a calm demeanor, and assisting others if the need arises.

Safety Measures Beneath the Waves

The Buddy System

Diving alone can be dangerous, as having a reliable dive buddy significantly enhances safety. Regular communication and constant awareness of your buddy’s condition can help prevent accidents and provide immediate assistance in case of an emergency.

Dive Training

Enrolling in certified dive courses is a critical step towards safety. These courses equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary to handle dive emergencies effectively. Understanding and practicing your training can be the difference between life and death.

Carry a First Aid Kit

A well-equipped dive first aid kit should be an essential part of your diving gear. It should include supplies like sterile gauze, antiseptic wipes, adhesive bandages, and a CPR mask. Having the right tools on hand can make a significant difference in an emergency situation.

Underwater First Aid Techniques

Barotrauma Relief

If you or your dive buddy experience barotrauma, ascend slowly while gently equalizing pressure in the ears and sinuses. Taking it easy and ascending gradually is key to alleviating symptoms.

Dealing with Decompression Sickness

If someone shows signs of the bends, administer 100% oxygen and contact emergency medical services immediately. The faster you act, the better the chances of a full recovery.

READ MORE  Emergency Ascents: A Step-by-Step Survival Guide


If hypothermia sets in, help the affected diver out of the water, remove wet clothing, and provide warmth. Wrap them in blankets or use a heated surface to gradually increase their body temperature.

Drowning Response

If you suspect someone is drowning, keep calm, signal for assistance, and bring the affected diver to the surface. Begin CPR if necessary and get them to professional medical help as soon as possible.


Diving is an exhilarating adventure, but it comes with its share of risks. Being prepared for dive injuries and illnesses is not an option; it’s a responsibility. When following the safety measures, undergoing proper training, and carrying a well-stocked first aid kit, you can explore the depths with confidence. Recall that the underwater world is breathtaking, but your safety should always come first. So, the next time you take the plunge into the deep blue realm, be the diver who not only embraces the beauty of the ocean but also respects its unpredictability. Be the diver who knows how to respond to dive injuries and illnesses, for your safety and the safety of your fellow underwater adventurers. Happy diving!

Leave a Comment