Divers should consider waiting at least seven days after each dose of coronavirus vaccine before engaging in scuba or freediving activities, suggests DAN Europe.
The medical and research body has issued updated recommendations for divers who have already been vaccinated and might have suffered the sort of side-effects commonly associated with vaccines generally, such as headache, mild fever, nausea, pain at the injection site, dizziness, gastro-intestinal disorders or swollen lymph nodes.
The vast majority of side-effects experienced to date have been mild, says DAN, occurring mostly within 12-48 hours of the injection but occasionally up to seven days, and more frequently reported after the second dose. However, it says that these symptoms might be “further enhanced by diving conditions, such as immersion, pressure and hypoxic/hyperoxic environment”.
It also says that anecdotal cases of symptoms in divers make it possible that some of these effects could “temporarily influence the risk of diving-related illness” – though it insists that being vaccinated in line with the national roll-out plan is highly recommended.
The suggested seven-day precautionary interval should be extended to 14 days for divers who experience side-effects for more than 48 hours, or those with personal health-risk factors such as being overweight; having chronic metabolic disease (including diabetes); a smoker; or taking medication such as oral contraceptives that might increase risk of embolisms.
The 14-day recommendation also applies to divers planning to exceed no-decompression recreational diving limits.
Divers are advised to consult their GP if vaccination side-effects persist for more than 48 hours. If they do carry out what seem to be low-risk dives during the seven days after a vaccination and experience symptoms that could be related to diving disease, they should call a diving-medicine specialist.
Protective measures such as social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-sanitising should still be observed after vaccination, stresses DAN. Its guidelines can be found here.
Last May DAN published widely endorsed recommendations for divers returning to diving after a Covid-19 infection. With the current resumption of diving it has now updated and republished this advice to embrace additional knowledge of the coronavirus.
Divers who test positive but remain completely asymptomatic should wait at least 30 days from their first negative test before applying for fit-to-dive clearance and eventually resuming diving, says DAN.
Those who suffer symptomatic Covid should wait the 30 days and then another 30 days symptom-free before applying to a diving medicine specialist for clearance to dive.