Managing Scuba Diving Risks: Tips to avoid them and how Travel Insurance Can Help

Scuba diving is one of the popular activities among sea lovers. However, diving involves taking some risks. Some of these risks can be fatal.

In this article, we will share what are some of the common diving risks, how can you manage them and finally, how travel insurance can act as an additional layer of protection for your diving activities.

Scuba Diving Risks

While there are many situations that may happen during your dive, here are the most common risks that a diver face:


During your dive, you may experience discomfort or pain in your ear. This symptom is known as barotrauma. Barotrauma can occur both during ascent and descent.

Barotrauma is caused by the differences in pressure in Eustachian Tube and Middle Ear. The difference in pressure is due to a blocked Eustachian Tube.


To avoid barotrauma, you have to keep your eustachian tube open during ascent or descent. You can do that by blowing against a closed mouth and nose, swallowing, and yawning. This process is known as equalization.

Besides causing pain, more serious form of barotrauma may injure your ears, and even cause hearing loss.

Decompression Sickness

Decompression sickness, also known as the bends, is caused by the harmful bubbles in your body’s tissues. These harmful bubbles resulted from the increased nitrogen when you are underwater. In most cases, when you return to the surface, these nitrogen are released from your body.

However, if you return to the surface too quickly, some of the nitrogen may remain in your body, and they can form harmful bubbles.

Decompression Sickness

Source: Scuba Dudes

Symptoms of decompression sickness includes:

  • Pain in joints and muscles

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Skin itch or rashes

Here are some tips to avoid decompression sickness:

  • Use a dive computer: A dive computer tracks your dive depth and time, then calculate a theoretical nitrogen loading using a decompression model. It will show you the time and depth limits you need to stay within.

  • Staying hydrated: Drink enough water. You should need to urinate once after every dive.

  • Maintain a slow ascent rate: With dive computer, you can judge and maintain your ascent rate at a slow pace.

Nitrogen Narcosis

Another nitrogen-related risk with diving is nitrogen narcosis. Unlike decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis is caused by breathing nitrogen at a high partial pressure.

A diver experiencing narcosis is similar to alcohol intoxication. There will also be impairment of judgment and loss of decision-making ability and focus.

The deeper a diver goes, the greater is the narcosis.

The trouble with narcosis is that it may be difficult to identify. Your altered perceptions may make you feel good enough that you do not realise that your abilities have been impaired. To self-diagnose narcosis, be aware of any emotions that you have, even the good ones.

Here are some tips to deal with narcosis:

  • Schedule gauge and buddy checks. Agree with your buddy to check each other gauge at specific intervals, for example, every two minutes. Always make eye contact with your buddy and exchange “OK” signs.

  • Descend slowly. Rapid compression may cause more narcosis.

  • Ascend slightly. If you experienced some narcosis, start ascending slightly until you feel better.

Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism is another risk when you ascent rapidly. Under pressure, more gas can be held in your lungs. However, when you ascent, the pressure starts to decrease, resulting in the gas in your lungs to expand.

If you experienced shortness of breath, chest pain or cough after your dive, make sure you consult a doctor immediately. These are symptoms of pulmonary embolism.

Slowing down and control your ascent will be your best guard against pulmonary embolism. Also, never hold your breath while diving.

Defective Equipment

If you are leisure diver, there is a high chance that you do not have your equipment. You should always check the equipment from the diving operator thoroughly. If you find anything wrong, do not shy away from asking a replacement. 35% of deaths were because of equipment malfunction or misuse.

Before diving into the water, conduct a pre-dive equipment check with your buddy. This will help you and your buddy to identify possible problems that you have missed out.

Check out the below video on how to conduct a pre-dive check:

Other Tips to Make Diving a Safe and Enjoyable Activity

Avoid Rapid Ascent and Descent

Most of the problems associated with diving exist because of rapid ascent and descent. You should use a dive computer to guide your ascent and descent rate.

Take Refresher Course

If you haven’t dive for the past 1 year, it is recommended for you to take a refresher course before going for another dive.

Buddy System

Based on data from Diving Medicine, 86% of diving fatalities were alone when they die. In contrast, only 14% of divers died while they have their buddy with them.

“Buddies who are not in constant and direct communication are not buddies, – merely diving in the same ocean.”

Not only you should have a buddy, but you should also maintain constant contact and communication.

How Travel Insurance Can Help in your Diving Trip

The purpose of insurance is to transfer the risk to the insurance company. While buying a travel insurance does not mean you will not experience injuries during your dive, at least it can help to cover the costs associated with the injury.

While choosing a travel insurance, make sure that you read the fine prints. Pay special attention to the following details:

  • Whether does the insurance cover scuba diving; and

  • Depth limits.

If you are unsure, consult the insurance company to clarify these details.

You should also choose a travel insurance with emergency repatriation coverage. Afterall, when you are injured in a secluded island, you need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Emergency repatriation can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $50,000, depending on where you are.

If you do buy a travel insurance, make sure you keep the emergency repatriation number in hard copy – either by writing it down or printing it out. Your phone might not be able to detect the 3G/4G signals.

About Anthola and QBE’s Travel Insurance

Anthola Pte Ltd is an authorised general insurance agent for QBE Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd. We advise our clients on travel insurance needs.

As I am also a diver, I understand the risks and technical terms involved. Combined with my insurance expertise, I will be able to put forth any claims you might have during your dive.

However, there are some general requirements for QBE’s travel insurance:

  • You should dive under the supervision of a qualified diving instructor, or you have a professional and recognized (PADI) scuba diving license;

  • You are not a professional diver, participating in any competition, or a diving instructor; and

  • You should not dive deeper than 30 metres;

This means that the travel insurance only applies for leisure divers. If you are interested in purchasing the travel insurance, you can head over to Anthola’s travel insurance platform.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.