Scuba diving is an activity that is popular for underwater world lovers. Not only to enjoy the underwater beauty, diving also give divers other benefits. By doing scuba diving, divers can practice breathing, train all body muscles, burn calories and even relieve stress. Some even took scuba diving as a form of meditation. But behind it all, it can also lead to fatal risks. One of them is nitrogen narcosis.
But what exactly is nitrogen narcosis and how do we treat it?
What is Nitrogen Narcosis?
Nitrogen narcosis is a narcotic effect caused by the high dose of nitrogen dissolved in the body during a dive. Those who have experienced it know exactly that the expression “diving is an intoxicating activity” is not a mere figure of speech. At a certain depth, divers can feel as if they are drunk. We call it “nitrogen narcosis” or “martini effect.” This condition, although temporary, can have a serious impact on the health of divers.
The air we breathe daily contains no less than 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and a 1% mixture of other gases. According to these figures, the nitrogen we breathe every day does not negatively impact our bodies. However, this is different if you are in the water. When a scuba tank is under water pressure, its nitrogen can become narcotic. Divers inhale compressed air, which produces a drowsy effect on the brain. Nitrogen narcosis can occur on shallow dives, but the deeper the dive is, the greater the risk of narcosis is.
How Does it Happen?
The air we breathe every day contains as much as 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and a mixture of other gasses as much as 1%. If you only look at these numbers, the nitrogen gas we breathe everyday does not have a bad impact on our bodies. However, this only applies while on land, it is different if you are in the water. Scuba tanks filled with nitrogen and other gasses where at great depths under water pressure can be narcotic. Divers inhale compressed air from the scuba tank which gives a kind of anesthetic effect on the brain. For this reason, nitrogen narcosis is also known as inert gas narcosis. Nitrogen narcosis can occur during shallow dives but is more likely and occurs frequently in dives to depths below 30 meters. The deeper the dive, the greater the chance of nitrogen narcosis.
What are The Symptoms?
The first symptoms appear when the diver goes deeper than 30 meters. They will not get worse if you do not go deeper. A narcotic diver will look like a drunk person. The most common symptoms are feeling euphoric (overjoyed), slow reactions, disorientation (confusion/dizziness), loss of balance, and dizziness. These symptoms disappear on their own when the diver returns to the surface. However, if the diver has gone to a greater depth, the symptoms of nitrogen narcosis may become more severe.
How to Know Experiencing Nitrogen Narcosis While Diving?
Nitrogen narcosis usually occurs in the middle of a dive so it is rarely diagnosed by a doctor. The diver himself is the quickest to find out if he has nitrogen narcosis or not. Diver should pay attention to his unusual emotional changes. Many divers say they experience unusual emotions and thoughts during nitrogen narcosis. There was a diver who said he saw a different color on the pressure gauge he was using. When this happens, immediately inform your diving buddy to help.
How to Prevent and Overcome
Prevention is better than cure. Before diving, divers should ensure that they are well rested and well hydrated. Remember that divers are not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages before diving. When diving, divers should set a depth limit according to their abilities.
Even if you want to dive deeper, learn the necessary techniques first. In this way, nitrogen narcosis can be avoided.
In contrast to the case where the diver has felt the symptoms, they should ascend slowly and gradually to a shallower depth. Take a break of 10 to 30 seconds every 10 meters. This is the way to avoid decompression. Symptoms will diminish as he reaches shallower depths.
The diver can take a break at shallow depths if the symptoms are mild. If the symptoms have completely disappeared, the diver can continue to dive to that depth. After reaching the surface, the symptoms will disappear completely and slowly. We recommend that after the symptoms have completely disappeared, you do not dive again immediately.
Give your body time to rest.
Also, if you dive and have no symptoms, it does not mean that you will not have symptoms the next dive.
That’s the information about nitrogen narcosis! No need to worry, as long as you know what they are and how to prevent and treat them, scuba diving is safe to do!