[Diving and asthma: Literature review]

Rev Pneumol Clin. 2018 Dec;74(6):416-426. doi: 10.1016/j.pneumo.2018.10.002. Epub 2018 Nov 12.
[Article in French]


Introduction: Scuba diving has long been contraindicated for asthmatics. Recommendations are evolving towards authorisation under certain conditions. Our objective was to review the literature on the risks associated with scuba diving among asthmatics and about recommendations on this subject.

Materials and methods: We used the MEDLINE and LiSSa databases, until June 2018, in French, English or Spanish language, with the keywords "asthma AND diving" and "asthme plongée" respectively. References to the first degree were analyzed.

Results: We have included 65 articles. Risk of bronchospasm is well documented, particularly in cold and/or deep water, or in the event of exposure to allergens (compressor without filter). Nonasthmatic atopic divers may be at greater risk of developing bronchial hyper-reactivity. Although the theoretical risk exists, epidemiological studies do not seem to show an over-risk of barotrauma, decompression sickness or arterial gas embolism in asthmatics. French, British, American, Spanish and Australian societies agreed on the exclusion of patients with moderate to severe persistent asthma, FEV1<80%, active asthma in the last 48hours, exercise/cold asthma and poor physical fitness.

Conclusion: A diver's examination should include a triple assessment: asthma control, number of exacerbations and treatment compliance. Homogenizing the recommendations would improve the framework for the practice of diving among asthmatics and allow larger studies in this population. Communicating the current recommendations remains important to divers, dive instructors and doctors in the context of the development of scuba diving.

Keywords: Air; Asthme; Bronchial spasm; Bronchospasme; Diving; Embolie gazeuse; Embolism; Mal de décompression; Plongée; Review; Revue de la littérature; asthma; decompression sickness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Barotrauma / epidemiology
  • Barotrauma / etiology
  • Barotrauma / therapy
  • Bronchial Spasm / epidemiology
  • Bronchial Spasm / etiology
  • Bronchial Spasm / therapy
  • Decompression Sickness / epidemiology
  • Decompression Sickness / etiology
  • Decompression Sickness / therapy
  • Diving / adverse effects
  • Diving / physiology*
  • Diving / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors