Medics worried by Covid after-effects

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Medics worried by Covid after-effects

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Diving doctors have expressed concern that they do not know how scuba divers’ lungs and heart will recover after Covid-19 infection. 

The issue has been discussed at a recent UK Diving Medical Committee meeting. Depending on how the lungs heal, the coronavirus could lead to a risk of pulmonary barotrauma, say the doctors, citing evidence from Diamond Princess cruise-ship passengers that the lungs of those who had been asymptomatic still showed significant changes. 

Coronavirus could also affect heart function, potentially leading to immersion pulmonary oedema (IPO). A report on Divernet in April raised similar concerns about residual effects of coronavirus on recovered divers, and the UKDMC plans to issue guidelines to enable divers to self-assess and be aware of the potential risks.

According to recommendations already issued by Divers Alert Network (DAN), divers testing positive for Covid-19 but remaining asymptomatic should wait at least a month before resuming diving, while those with symptoms should wait three months and consult a diving medical specialist before diving again.

Divers hospitalised for coronavirus and showing pulmonary symptoms should undergo complete pulmonary-function testing, exercise testing with peripheral oxygen-saturation measurement and high-resolution CT scans of the lungs before considering a return to diving. And those hospitalised with Covid-related cardiac problems should undergo cardiac evaluation, including echocardiography and exercise testing. 

30 May 2020

The British Diving Safety Group (BDSG), which includes representatives of training agencies, the UKDMC, HSE, MCA and various trade bodies, has urged all divers to work their way back into diving “in a gentle manner”. It advocates shallow, progressive shore-diving subject to devolved government guidelines. 

According to the BDSG, diving in Scotland is now permissible – although national governing body ScotSAC, a member of the group, has fallen short of advocating any immediate resumption. It points out that Scottish government guidance remains to stay at home and that only travel within around five miles is permitted for outdoor leisure. It also emphasises the risk of diverting emergency services or invalidating insurance cover in the event of an incident. 

Meanwhile, no hanging about will be the guidance to divers as inland dive-sites around the UK prepare to reopen under the slogan: “Arrive, Dive, Leave”.

This implies that only single dives might be allowed initially, following discussion of effective procedures for safe diving at a recent meeting of UK Inland Dive Sites. UKIDS says that elements to be considered by site operators include control of diver numbers, parking, booking-in, sharing facilities, kitting-up and social distancing. 

Inland sites are expected to be operating at less than maximum capacity, and to re-open at their own pace only once satisfied that their individual site logistics, social-distancing and infection-control measures are adequate.


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