Do Scuba Divers Sneeze or Cough Underwater?

Pioneered and advanced by people like Christian J. Lambertsen, Henry Fleuss, Yves Le Prieur, and Emile Gagnan, Scuba (an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) diving is done as a recreational or professional activity.

Scuba Divers can definitely sneeze and cough underwater. Reflexes like sneezing, burping, yawning, hiccup, coughing, gas release, or vomiting are experienced underwater, the same as on land.

There are several reasons why this happens and why divers deal with them underwater. Keep reading to learn more.

What Caused Sneeze or a Cough Underwater?

Since your core functionality is inhaling through your gas tank, this can cause nasal irritation. However, other factors photic (triggered by bright sunlight) sneeze reflex or just a random body functionality can occur.

Given this possibility, it will feel weird when it happens, and that’s why there is procedural conduct geared at ensuring you don’t suck in water. 

A cough, on the other hand, can be triggered if there is a small tear in the regulator mouthpiece, causing you to inhale sprays of water into the lungs. Water causes irritation in the lungs more so salty water, causing you to cough for a couple of minutes.

A tear in the regulators’ exhaust diaphragm, or a fold on the exhaust diaphragm leaving it partially open, will have the same effect. So is a small piece of debris leaving the exhaust diaphragm ajar. 

Other known causes are ice crystals when diving in freezing water and the fact that air in your scuba tank is very dry causing an itch on your throat.

How Does Physiological Sneeze Reaction Occur?

Sneeze occurs when the trigeminal nerve endings are stimulated by a light touch of dust, chemicals, etc. Approximately, 17-35% of the population has the propensity to sneeze when exposed to bright light (known as ACHOO syndrome). 

After exposure, the single travel to your brain at the sneeze center, the lateral medulla, and upon reaching a critical threshold, the sneezing reflex is triggered. This forces a deep breath intake. 

At this moment stopping the reflex and to aid with the exploration of air, the glottis located at the back of your throat squeezes shut, and your diaphragm contracts to build up pressure. The pressure release is accompanied by both the mucus, germs, dust, and air through the nose and mouth at a speed of 160kkm/h, lasting only 150 milliseconds. 

Once you sneeze since you’re sneezing on your dive mask, snot or moisture clogs up. Once you’re through with sneezing, clear your mask as you would if you had water in your mask or had a leak.

How To Sneeze or Cough Underwater?

You shouldn’t stop an underwater sneeze by closing your mouth or pinching your nose. Holding your sneeze can be detrimental, causing ruptured throat, ruptured brain aneurysms, or collapsed lungs.

To effectively sneeze underwater, you should ensure that you adjust your regulator to take that deep breath through it. And instead of sneezing through your nose, the safe bet relies on doing it through the mouth. 

The purge button is able to aid you in eliminating any matter, like mucus that may be produced after sneezing. When you feel like vomiting, you should follow the same principle.

In case you experience a cough, first, secure your regulator in your mouth and keep yourself oriented by holding on to your buddy a mooring line. You can avoid coughing by having gum in your mouth to aid in the throat’s dryness.

Scuba Safety

Mouthpieces should be thoroughly checked before any dive to detect any defect and promptly replaced. An investigation on the air at the retail filling outlet and on the scuba tank should be conducted to ensure Nitrox is odorless and tasteless.

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