Flying After Scuba Diving: Everything You Need To Know

Flying straightaway after scuba diving can lead to altitude decompression sickness, a detrimental condition that comes accompanied with deep pain, memory loss, extreme fatigue, itching, inflammation, and other side effects.

Decompression sickness is an outcome of the instant decline in atmospheric pressure as you soar from low to higher altitudes. It is the reason why sports and health experts propose that you wait for some time before you fly.

How long should you wait before you fly?

Ideally, there is no direct answer to the question since the actual wait times differ depending on the type of dive, the number of dives, your age, and many more factors. It is the reason why some organizations’ guiding principles suggest different wait times.

For instance, the Divers Alert Network and PADI guidelines recommend that you wait for a minimum of 12 hours before you take a flight after a single non-compression dive. Moreover, DAN’s procedures applaud a minimum of 18 hours after a decompression scuba diving excursion.

On the other hand, the US Navy guidelines recommend that you can take a flight two hours after a non-decompression scuba diving, while US Air Force guidelines say that you should wait for 24 hours before you fly.

So, which guidelines should you follow?

If you are doing scuba diving as a sport or a recreational activity, you would want to adhere to the Divers Alert Networks’ guidelines. DAN guidelines recommend a pre-flight surface interval of 12 hours after a single non-decompression dive and a pre-flight surface interval of 18 hours after a non-decompression dive of two or more days.

Health experts recommend DAN’s guidelines since they eliminate issues of decompression sickness by over 99%. Only 0.004% of 400,000 divers experience decompression sickness after observing DAN’s guidelines.

As an alternative, you can use your dive computer to determine your wait time. These valuable devices are programmed to help you calculate the wait time based on your specific diving parameters. However, not all dive computers are designed to help you figure out your wait time.

Sometimes, you can suffer from decompression disease even after waiting for the stipulated time. On that account, you should familiarize yourself with the symptoms of DCS so that you seek immediate medical help just in case the condition attacks you. You will need to seek medical attention even if you experience the symptoms and they disappear before you are treated.

Can you dive after flying?

Yes, you can dive immediately after flying since flying does not lead to decompression disease. However, sports experts recommend that you take some time to relax since flying can leave you weak, a factor that can affect your safety and diving performance.

The Bottom Line

Health experts recommend that you wait for 12-24 hours before you take a flight after diving. This wait time minimizes your risk of obtaining decompression disease, a detrimental condition characterized by chronic headache, pain, confusion, fatigue, numbness, and other symptoms. You would want to see your doctor even if the symptoms appear and disappear without treatment.