Decompression Sickness First Aid Treatment

Fact Checked

Hill DT Decompression Therapy Table

[media url=”” width=”600″ height=”400″]

Decompression sickness or generalized barotrauma, are injuries that result from a rapid decrease of the surrounding pressure, whether it is of air or water. This is common mostly in deep sea divers or scuba divers; however, it may occur in high altitude travels. Decompression sickness however, is very rare in pressurized aircrafts.

When a person is scuba diving with compressed air, oxygen is taken in used by the body and nitrogen is taken in and dissolved in your bloodstream. When you return to the surface after your dive, the water pressure drastically decreases and the nitrogen is not given enough time to move out of the blood. Therefore, it separates itself from the blood, forming bubbles in the blood tissue. The nitrogen bubbles result in decompression sickness, characterized by symptoms such as joint pain.


Symptoms of decompression sickness include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly
  • A skin rash
  • Weakness of the limbs
  • Numbness and tingling

When to seek medical attention

If you experience signs or symptoms of decompression sickness during a flight or while scuba diving, seek medical help as soon as possible. Hyperbaric treatment may be effective in treating the condition within several hours of onset.


Emergency treatment is based on maintaining the blood pressure in the body and administering oxygen. Treatment primarily involves administering a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. The hyperbaric oxygen chamber is a high pressure chamber with an oxygen concentration of 100 percent. This will ensure that the pressure changes that brought rise to the nitrogen bubbles will be reversed to allow the bubbles to turn into liquid form, which will clear up eventually within a few hours. Divers should avoid treating decompression sickness with deep diving.


In order to reduce your risk of decompression sickness, follow these steps:

  • Avoid flying within 24 hours after scuba diving or diving
  • Dive and ascend gradually when you’re in water. Avoid staying in the deepest depth too long. In most cases, scuba divers are given dive tables that indicate how long a person should stay at a certain depth in water
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before you dive
  • Avoid sauna, hot baths or hot tubs after diving
  • You must be well-rested and well hydrated before you are ready to scuba dive. It is important that you talk to your doctor if you had a recent injury, illness or surgery if you plan on scuba diving.

Some people may have to consider the risks of scuba diving or avoid it altogether. People with heart problems should avoid scuba diving as it may not be safe for them. Talk to your doctor if you have asthma, a lung disease or a history of an injured lung, before you consider scuba diving. People who require insulin shots for diabetes may experience wide swings in their blood glucose levels while diving, therefore, it is important that they are careful. People with a groin hernia should avoid diving as well. Take babysitting course or childcare first aid course online.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • All content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.

The information posted on this page is for educational purposes only.
If you need medical advice or help with a diagnosis contact a medical professional