A person’s history with COVID-19 is a significant factor to consider when establishing if they are fit to dive or not. This is especially so when considering the hyperbaric and underwater environment as well as the physiological demand of diving. Research has shown that there are structural changes following a COVID-19 infection. These changes can lead to gas trapping, increasing the risk of pulmonary barotrauma.
Note, if you are ongoing any symptoms of COVID-19, they are likely to affect exercise capacity especially aerobic fitness which may make it more challenging to cope with physical demands such as strong current or an emergency during diving. And we know that damage to the lungs can take a while to heal after the initial infection. Hence, divers with COVID-19 symptoms must go back to their normal level of fitness with no evidence of hypoxia (low oxygen) on exertion before they get back into the water.
Although our understanding of the COVID-19 pathogen and its long-term effect on the body is still limited. As such, as the number of people returning to diving after a COVID-19 infection increases, divers must get vaccinated and seek medical advice before going back to the water.
If you have had a positive COVID-19 test, even if you were asymptomatic, there is still a risk of underlying damage to your lungs. For these reasons, several medical personal have agreed that it is safe that such a person does not dive for a minimum of 3 months. After this period, you much have an exercise test with pulse oximetry to check that your level of oxygen has not decreased when you exert yourself. Please note, safety is a priority when diving, even though it may interrupt your diving plans. If you are in doubt, please speak with your local diving referee or AMED for more info about when it’s safe for you to dive.