If you're planning to drive to high altitudes after diving, you may wonder if it’s safe. Many people believe that driving to high altitudes after diving is dangerous and that you should wait 12 to 18 hours before doing so. However, this may not be entirely accurate. In this article, we'll explore the science behind diving and altitude and explain why driving at high altitudes after diving may be not dangerous as you think.
The Science Behind Diving and Altitude
When you dive, your body absorbs nitrogen from the air you breathe. If you ascend too quickly, the nitrogen can form bubbles in your bloodstream, causing decompression sickness. This is why it's important to wait before flying after diving, as the change in altitude can cause the same problem.
However, driving at a high altitude of more than 300 M is different from flying. While a plane can reach 3000 meters in just a few minutes, driving to a high altitude takes much longer. For example, it takes approximately one hour to reach the pass before Wadi Rum, which is approximately 960 meters. This means that you're not exceeding the recommended ascent rate for diving of 10 to 18 meters per minute.
The Importance of Making Shallow Dives
Another factor to consider is the depth of your dives. If you make shallow dives recommended 7 M, you're less likely to absorb a significant amount of nitrogen. This means that you'll be able to drive to high altitudes sooner than if you make deeper dives.
Guidelines for Driving to High Altitude After Diving
At Arab Divers in Aqaba, Jordan, we take the issue of driving to high altitudes after diving seriously. We've come up with some guidelines based on National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association tables. The guidelines will be different depending on the dives you've done. For example, if you end up in pressure group Z (the worst-case scenario for recreational diving) using the PADI RDP, you'll be in pressure group K one hour from surfacing. This means you can travel to Petra, Amman, or Wadi Rum with no problem.
It's worth noting that according to the Israel Diving Federation, you should not fly for at least two hours after the introductory dive. While this recommendation is specific to flying, it's a good idea to wait a similar amount of time before driving to a high altitude.
In Aqaba, Jordan, many divers regularly drive home after two dives (not including decompression dives) without incident. As the operators of a diving center for over 30 years, they haven't heard of any problems related to driving to high altitudes after diving.
While it's important to be cautious when it comes to diving and altitude, driving to high altitudes after diving may not be as dangerous as some people believe. As long as you make shallow dives and follow sensible guidelines, you should be able to do so safely. So, if you're planning to drive to Wadi Rum, Petra, or Amman after diving, you can rest assured that it's generally safe to do so as long as you wait a reasonable amount of time before driving.
These times are based on NOAA recommendations (based on US Navy Tables, pressure groups have been recalculated for the RDP). Using Nitrox and high Oxygen mixes on decompression dives also lessens the problem. Arab Divers suggests adhering to the dive table or computer before taking a flight after diving.
Caution: the most of the info on this page shows that ascending to altitude is uncertain. It suggests concerns a diver may have prior to such an ascent and provides information that may assist the diver in making a personal decision. In no way does the author of this article provide recommendations for the diver.