Largely unexplored, the underwater world holds great attraction for many people. Snorkeling is one such thrilling adventure that gives you an enjoyable aquatic experience to cherish all the fantasies in the water. Asthmatics often give up their snorkeling passion, believing that it’s impossible to breathe underwater.
The good news is, asthmatics can go snorkeling. However, it is important to consult your doctor beforehand. We also recommend being prepared and confident; if you have a waterproof inhaler at hand and you stay in shallow water close to your friends, there’s nothing that can stop you from having an amusing time!
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What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a respiratory disorder linked to breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, and coughing. This happens due to chronic inflammation and constriction of airways along with excessive mucus production. The airways constriction is so severe that breathing becomes a huge challenge.
Around 3.6% of the human population suffers from asthma. Let’s put it this way: about 262 million people worldwide suffer from it, which means asthma affects 1 in 13 people roughly. Although asthma can be quite vexing, there has been no permanent cure discovered yet.
There are different types of asthma, varying from person to person. The symptoms differ, too, which can range from rare asthma attacks to frequent ones. Some other symptoms accompanying shortness of breath are chest tightness, pain, wheezing, and coughing worsened by flu or viral infections.
To make matters worse, asthma can be easily provoked by external factors. These include animal fur, pollen, dust, exercise, fumes, spores, smoke, cold, dry environments, and claustrophobia. This explains why an asthma sufferer can be anxious about snorkeling. The dry and cold environment underwater, coupled with physical exertion, fear, stress, and minimal air exposure, is an open invitation to asthma.
Is Snorkeling with Asthma Dangerous?
Overall, we’d say it’s not that dangerous, but it is always good to be on the safe side and take necessary precautions.
Asthma sufferers may hesitate to jump into the cold water. Even healthy lungs face difficulty underwater; just imagine how complicated the situation could get for an asthmatic! Snorkelers may come across certain triggering events in the deep sea, like the cold, damp atmosphere, adrenaline, and fear, and claustrophobic effects to make one particularly susceptible to an asthma attack underwater.
The already restricted breathing capacity, paired up with greater resistance on the lungs, demands more effort to breathe. The majority of people suffering from exercise-induced asthma cannot keep up with the physical exertion that snorkeling calls for. Also, water has a greater density than air, which makes breathing a laborious task due to the constricted airways. On traversing greater depths, the sudden pressure changes may lead to air trapping in the lungs and blood vessels.
But let’s consider it this way. While the risk factor is certainly undeniable, there are certain ways to eliminate the possibility of danger in snorkeling. Asthma patients will have to consult a physician and obtain medical clearance to assess the risk of complications. Several lung function tests determine the functioning and vital capacity of your lungs to make sure you are fit for snorkeling. Every asthmatic sufferer is well-familiarized with their triggers and susceptibility and knows how to take action in case of any jeopardy.
Even better, with proper health, training, and exposure, asthmatics are perfectly capable of snorkeling and diving. With a few tips up your sleeve, you’re all set to enjoy snorkeling. However, we don’t recommend switching to scuba diving and chances are that instructors won’t let you scuba dive with asthmatic conditions.
Tips For Snorkeling with Asthma
We believe that nothing should stop you from living life to the fullest. And if snorkeling is something you’d enjoy, there’s no harm in going for it. But, you need to be fully prepared, self-assured, and in top-notch health. Here are some tips for snorkeling with asthma:
Keep Your Inhalers Dry
Your inhaler is your best friend during snorkeling, so it’s important to keep it dry and accessible at all times. Inhalers can be stored in waterproof bags for the convenience of asthmatics. These waterproof dry bags can be purchased at quite a low price.
Drybags come in handy to store your inhalers and protect them underwater. This way, you can use the inhaler whenever you feel overpowered by an asthmatic seizure. We recommend storing multiple inhalers in dry bags while snorkeling so that you enjoy a trouble-free experience.
Don’t Snorkel Alone
If you’re suffering from asthma, you could definitely do good with some company. We believe that going snorkeling with friends or a dive buddy is a win-win situation. This could come as a great hangout experience for all your friends and lend you a cherished memory. But what’s even better is that you could immediately call out for help in case of any asthma attacks.
We totally understand how seeing the underwater marvels can get snorkelers ecstatic to venture into deeper waters. But never go alone, and always make sure to keep some people close by who know about your condition and are vigilant to help in case of any mishap. Your friends should keep an eye on you at all times and be smart enough to know when you’re struggling for breath.
Inform Others About Your Condition
Many asthmatics have relished the joys of snorkeling before you, and your diving crew can tell you all about it! Alert your company, dive operator, and boat crew of your condition, inhaler, and any particular triggers so that they can intervene in case you suffer from an asthma attack. Don’t hesitate to share your medical condition with them and keep them fully informed. It always helps to have a supportive group of trustworthy friends to keep your spirits high!
Undoubtedly, it’s a safe option to have someone looking out for you. Don’t get over-excited when you start snorkeling, but go slowly and take your time till you get accustomed to the underwater environment. Stay in shallow waters because you can always stand up on the seabed in case it gets way too exhausting for you.
Since most asthma cases are diagnosed from early childhood, you might be quite familiar with those things that trigger asthma attacks for you beforehand. Asthma arising from allergens and pollutants is less likely to cause a disaster while snorkeling because exposure to these irritants underwater is minimal. Since there is no contact with smoke, pollutants, dust mites, pollen, and mold in the waters, you don’t need to worry about it.
However, things could get out of hand if you suffer from asthma induced by exercise. Snorkeling is a tedious sport, and pressure exertion is likely to aggravate asthma symptoms and you may even have an asthma attack. Moreover, the deeper you go, the more difficult it becomes to breathe. Cold and dry environments, along with fear, stress, and claustrophobia, are major contraindications for asthmatics.
Asthma Freedom Snorkel
An asthma freedom snorkel is a revolutionary gadget designed particularly for asthmatics enthusiastic about snorkeling. Manufactured by MediDive, this device gives you full access to your diving medicine through the snorkel.
All you’ve got to do is insert your inhaler canister in the body of the snorkel. This will provide you with immediate asthma medication on demand, even in aquatic conditions. So even if your asthma gets triggered, your medication is just a button away. Press the button, and the medication will be dispensed to be inhaled instantly.
The device certainly boosts confidence in many asthmatics. Prioritizing safety and health, there’s no stopping asthmatics from exploring the underwater life to their heart’s content.
Possible Triggers for Asthma
Before you set foot in deep waters, you must be familiar with the probable triggers of an asthmatic seizure. These are mostly external factors that can be avoided easily.
Around 80% of people are allergic to certain materials in the air. Exposure or inhalation of these allergens can trigger asthma and make breathing difficult. An allergen could be anything, such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach droppings, dust mites, dust particles, dried pet saliva, etc. Furry pets can also trigger asthma because of the dust mites inhabiting their fur. The majority of these allergens can be avoided by keeping away from such airborne particles.
A heavy set of exercises often leads to getting short of breath, and the symptoms may worsen in people with asthma. When you’re exercising, the body goes short on oxygen levels and demands rapid breathing as compensation. Consequently, the constricted airways of an asthma patient get overburdened. This overexertion of the lungs can result in chest tightness, coughing, and breathing difficulty. What’s even more troubling is that exercising out in the cold, dry air can aggravate the asthma seizure considerably. So, the best way is to avoid strenuous workouts and opt for slow warm-up exercises discussed with your diving doctor.
Pollution or Smoke
While pollution is a hazard to everyone’s health, there is a significantly higher risk factor for asthma patients. Some people are triggered by irritants in the air, like fumes, gases, smoke, smog, pollutants, etc. The smoke from a factory, car, or burning wood is a mixture of harmful gases, thus being a potential danger to asthmatics. Cigarette smoke is also another trigger, more often in workplaces. This is in the form of ‘secondhand smoke’ created by a smoker but inhaled by the surrounding people.
Asthmatics fear winter is because cold air worsens their symptoms. When cold air hits the airways, they react by constricting themselves. Our body is likely to secrete more mucus in cold weather. With lower moisture content, the airways become inflamed, which might lead to a seizure attack in asthmatics. Moreover, flu and viral infections become increasingly common in winters. All these factors combine to exacerbate asthma to a seriously severe level.