Is Scuba Diving Dangerous? Risks, Dangers & Rules for Safety

Scuba diving is regarded as one of the safest extreme watersports. However, like with any other intense activity, hazards are typical and must be considered before diving into the ocean. Learning how to get started in extreme watersports, in general, is an excellent place to start. Then, research is essential once you’ve decided on the sport you want to participate in.

Knowing the risks associated with whatever activity you wish to engage in is critical to your safety. We’ll go over how dangerous scuba diving is and how to be safe in the water in this article.


Scuba diver looking at corals

Scuba diving is generally a safer sport than swimming or even jogging. That does not, however, mean it is without risk. So what are the dangers of scuba diving?

External variables such as boat propellers, underwater currents, and marine life are some of the most common scuba diving dangers. Low-quality gear and incorrect preparation further increase the threat of malfunctioning equipment and running out of air.

Several risks pose serious health risks. Hypothermia, oxygen toxicity, and saltwater aspiration are some of the conditions.

The most prevalent risks of scuba diving are barotrauma, decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, and drowning.

Barotrauma is induced by extreme pressure underwater. If you don’t equalize your ears properly, fluid might build up in your middle ear, causing various problems.

Decompression sickness can be triggered by ascending too quickly, drinking alcohol before or after a dive, or even traveling within 24 hours after diving. Nitrogen builds up in your body, potentially causing microbubbles in your bloodstream and joints. These bubbles can rupture blood vessels or even prevent blood from flowing.

Nitrogen narcosis can be caused by swimming deeper than 100 feet. It’s a temporary condition. However, it forces you to feel drunk and can last for quite a while after ascending.

Drowning is one of the most common causes of diving fatalities. It might occur due to equipment failure, becoming caught in seaweed or a fishing line, or even turbulent water. However, there are many different causes of drowning in scuba divers.

The most crucial aspect of remaining safe while scuba diving is to double-check your equipment, plan your dive carefully, and avoid partaking in any body-intensive activities too soon after a dive. Learning how to diving hand signals in an emergency can save your life.

Also, when diving, make sure to check your air, be aware of your surroundings, and make safety stops.

Dangers of Scuba Diving

Scuba diver looking at whirlpool of fish

So you may ask yourself, is scuba diving dangerous? Scuba diving, like any other extreme sport, carries risks. Fortunately, most serious health problems are uncommon. Even “common” risks have a low probability of occurring.

However, if they do occur, they can be exceedingly harmful if you do not recognize the signs and symptoms.

How Dangerous is Scuba Diving?

Scuba diving can be dangerous if done incorrectly or with inadequate equipment and preparation.

External Dangers

●     Currents: Strong currents can produce a variety of problems, including rapid air depletion, increased gas loading, exhaustion, and separation. They may even make it impossible for you to return to the boat.

●     Entrapment: Entrapment, or entanglement, occurs when a diver becomes entangled in something beneath the water, such as a buoy line or seaweed. If not rescued before the oxygen runs out, this might lead to asphyxia.

●     Marine Life: Most creatures are neither harmful nor aggressive, but they may react in unforeseen ways if they feel threatened. Some animals bite, while others spit poison or are venomous; even corals can sting or lacerate.

●     Malfunctioning Equipment: Another scuba diving danger is faulty equipment. O-ring failure and the rupture of a regulator hose are two common equipment failures.

●     Running Out of Air: Scuba diving risks include running out of oxygen, frequently caused by improper gas management. It could also occur as a result of device failure or unexpected exertion.

Health Risks

●     Saltwater Aspiration: Inhaling a mist of seawater causes saltwater aspiration. This can happen due to faulty equipment or bad diving technique, but it can also occur in near-drownings.

●     Hypothermia: Because water takes heat away from our bodies 20 times quicker than air, moderate hypothermia can occur in most waterways.

●     Oxygen Toxicity: Divers who employ mixed gases risk developing oxygen toxicity. Convulsions, visual abnormalities, nausea, twitching, dizziness, and irritability are some of the symptoms.

Most Common Risks

●     Barotrauma: Increased underwater pressure causes barotrauma. The most prevalent type suffered by divers is middle-ear barotrauma. It can result in excruciating discomfort, fluid accumulation, bleeding, and even hearing loss.

    Decompression Sickness (The Bends): A sudden decrease in the pressure surrounding you causes decompression sickness. It is prevalent in scuba diving and deep-sea diving because your body absorbs more oxygen and nitrogen when diving with compressed air.

Nitrogen does not have time to filter out during quick ascents and develops bubbles in your tissues, joints, and bloodstream. These microbubbles might obstruct regular blood flow and cause damage to your blood vessels.

     Nitrogen Narcosis: Nitrogen narcosis is a disorder that occurs in deep-sea divers who swim deeper than 100 feet. Breathing nitrogen at high partial pressure causes the condition.

The partial pressure of the gases increases as you descend. When you inhale the gases at a higher partial pressure, you will experience symptoms akin to intoxication.

     Drowning: Drowning is one of the most common causes of scuba diving deaths. Drowning occurrences can be triggered by equipment failure, gas supply issues, and rough water.

What Is The Most Dangerous and Most Common Emergency in Scuba Diving?

Scuba diver surfacing above water

Arterial Gas Embolism

An arterial gas embolism occurs when bubbles in an artery obstruct blood flow to organs. It is a leading cause of death among underwater divers who breathe compressed air, such as scuba divers.

Air bubbles can enter arterial or venous circulation after pulmonary (lung) barotrauma or decompression sickness. Bubbles in arteries have the potential to go to any organ in the body and clog minor blood channels. Bubbles in veins have the potential to travel to the arteries. Shock and death can result from a severe arterial gas embolism.

People who have an arterial gas embolism are forced to lie down and be given oxygen right away. They must be placed in a high-pressure environment as quickly as possible so that the air bubbles are squeezed and driven to disintegrate in the blood.

When diving, you should do the following to limit your chances of developing an air or gas embolism:

  • Limit your dives’ depth and duration.
  • Perform safety stops and surface slowly.
  • If you have a cough, cold, or chest illness, don’t dive.
  • Before, during, and after a dive, avoid strenuous exercise.
  • Allow enough time between dives for the nitrogen to exit your body.
  • Before flying or going to a greater altitude, wait 24 hours after diving.

Scuba Diving Safety

Scuba diver looking at sea turtle underwater

Now you’re probably asking yourself, is scuba diving safe at all? Compared to many other outdoor and sporting pursuits, scuba diving is considered a low-risk activity. Even common hobbies like swimming, riding all-terrain vehicles, and walking have higher death rates than diving.

So don’t be alarmed by the list of concerns we just discussed; even the most common threats, as previously said, are highly unusual. Understanding and following the scuba diving guidelines will significantly reduce the risks. Let’s go over some tips for scuba safety.

Scuba Diving Rules

Here are some of the most important rules for diving.

  • Don’t hold your breath. Continuously breathe during scuba diving.
  • Never dive alone.
  • Do not interfere with marine life.
  • Do not consume alcohol the night before a dive.
  • Regularly check your gauges.
  • Carry out safety stops.
  • While descending, equalize early, regularly, and slowly.
  • Never dive deeper than you feel comfortable with.
  • Do not overload yourself.
  • Dive within your comfort zone.
  • Make decompression stops.
  • Always take a dive computer. Use a dive watch as a backup. Here is a list of the best affordable dive watches.
  • Every dive should be ascended slowly.

Scuba Diving Preparation and Precautions

Below are some things to keep in mind before and after a dive.

Before a Dive

  • Make a dive plan.
  • Make sure to look into the water’s temperature and conditions.
  • The night before, double-check the safety of your gear.
  • Learn scuba dive hand signals.

After a Dive

  • After a dive, don’t fly right away.
  • Don’t drink excessively the day following a dive.
  • Avoid activities that raise the pressure around you, such as mountain climbing or ziplining.

What Should Divers Do For Their Own Safety?

Even though the risks of scuba diving are minimal when appropriately done with the proper preparation and equipment, there are still several dangers to be aware of. While in the water, observe the basic scuba diving guidelines for your safety. Remember that adequate preparation is essential before diving.

Also, even after you’ve completed your dive, exercise caution. To have a safe and anxiety-free dive, it’s critical to understand the primary indicators of serious health concerns that might be caused by scuba diving.

Now that you’ve learned the ins and outs of diving safely, plenty of adventures await you under the sea.