Decompression Sickness | Signs and Prevention

Decompression sickness or DCS was initially believed to occur only under high-pressure conditions during scuba diving, but studies indicate, however, it is seen that freediving often presents its risks of growing decompression sickness, also known as bending.

Let’s discuss what DCS is, the signs of it, and how we can avoid this in our freediving.

Understanding DCS

Whenever a sudden decompression happens, the nitrogen bubbles give rise to DCS in the tissues of the body. But your body uses only oxygen and a little nitrogen when you breathe in air. Although this is not an issue with the standard atmospheric pressure when you are on the ground.

The pressure is amplified as you go deeper underwater which in turn ensures that more nitrogen and oxygen can dissolve in your blood. The tissues in your body absorb oxygen, but the nitrogen remains as it is. Your body is relaxed from the pressure with a gradual ascent and the nitrogen is released slowly. If the freedive is swift and rapid, then the nitrogen can come out of the blood and tissues thus creating bubbles. The minute blood vessels can be blocked by these bubbles that may lead to muscle pain, ruptured lungs, stroke, or even a heart attack.

Some Tips to Prevent DCS

  • Don't push yourself

It means keeping your freediving sessions up to two hours or less in a day, if you feel cold sensations, end it immediately. Never mix up a speed of approx 1m/sec in your ascent.

It is suggested to breathe in oxygen for about 10 minutes after the freedive is over.

  • Stay Hydrated

Staying properly hydrated before and after a training sitting is vital, as freediving can be dehydrating. One should try to drink about 1 liter of water before the session, and the same amount of water even after the session is over.

  • Eat healthy

Starting your diving without a stress-free mind can be disastrous, try to keep calm by taking full rest, avoid any kind of exercise and alcohol just the day before freediving.

What are the possible signs of DCS?

Here is a list of all the possible symptoms that one can experience in case of DCS:

  • Itchy Skin and rashes

  • Muscle or joint pain

  • Numbness and dizziness

  • Chest pain

  • Coughs and vomiting

  • Headache and Nausea

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Weakness and shortness of breath

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