Scuba diving with asthma

CLEVELAND CLINIC - Scuba diving is a popular activity but can be dangerous, especially if you have asthma.

Dr. David Lang is an asthma specialist at Cleveland Clinic and an avid diver. He says many people with asthma dive without complications, but it's important to realize there may be an increased risk for respiratory problems.

"The complications of diving generally relate to the changing conditions of pressure and their influence on the behavior of gasses, particularly the gasses in your lung, so that asthmatics are likely at elevated risk," Dr. Lang said.

Dr. Lang says certain conditions during scuba diving may flare-up asthma and cause airways to tighten, making it difficult to breathe, or even cause an asthma attack under water.

Diving conditions that may trigger asthma include sudden drops in temperature, exertion, breathing dry, compressed air from an oxygen tank, and fear or anxiety.

One research study states that people who have asthma triggered by cold, emotion, or exercise should avoid diving altogether.

Dr. Lang says people with asthma can dive safely, but it's important to make sure your asthma is well controlled before taking the plunge.

"If you find you're using your rescue inhaler more frequently, if you're having more frequent daytime, nighttime symptoms, probably you should see your physician before you dive," he said.

Dr. Lang says if you have asthma and enjoy scuba diving, it's a good idea to see your doctor regularly to ensure that your asthma is well managed and to discuss any change in risk.