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An interesting topic. As you may appreciate, the matter of flying then diving is much less critical than that of diving then flying, hasn't really been studied, and simply needs to be approached with common sense & flexibility.
Here's what our very own scubadoc said about it in his Dive Medicine column in the Mar '00 edition of "Rodale's Scuba Diving" magazine:
"There are no guidelines concerning the time to dive after flying or having alcoholic beverages. However, mild dehydration can occur on long flights and alcohol consumption (and drinking caffeinated beverages) contributes significantly to dehydration. Dehydration is a definite risk factor in predisposing a diver to decompression illness because the washout of inert gas (nitrogen, in diving) is less effective in a dehydrated individual. There are few dive trips that don't start out with a complimentary rum punch (often provided by the dive operator), and one free drink often escalates into several—on top of what you might have had on the plane during the trip. There is a small uptake of nitrogen back to sea level partial pressure upon descent and exit from the aircraft. Residual nitrogen is referenced to nitrogen tissue levels above normal sea level values and a flight at 8,000 feet cabin altitude would result in lower tissue nitrogen levels than sea level. On descent, tissue nitrogen pressure would simply return to sea level amounts.
We should expect to see more decompression illness on the very first day of diving if there were a relationship between flying and drinking alcohol before diving. The Divers Alert Network (DAN) has reported some data suggestive of an increase in decompression accidents on the first day of diving of a trip. Their figures show that of the 88 cases reviewed from the Caribbean for 1994, 33—or 37.5 percent—occurred on the first day. The remainder occurred on days two through seven. These numbers are far too small to establish a cause and effect, but are suggestive. It would certainly seem reasonable to wait at least 24 hours before diving, rehydrating yourself as much as possible and avoiding overkill with the alcohol."
I personally cannot bear to wait least 24 hours to dive, so I don't drink alcohol on the flight or before diving, start hydrating 2 days before I leave home & sleep on the plane.
Though one can dive right after stepping off the plane, it's not a recommendation per DAN's research. One should take time after a long flight to rehydrate and rest and get settled in a new location. Jumping in the water right after stepping off the plane will increase one's risk of DCS due to adding two risk factors: dehydration and fatigue.
Flying after diving rules per DAN state that one could fly after 12 hours SI after last dive, but highly recommends 24 if diving multiple days/dives.
Jmsdiver and Natasha, you both mentioned drinking plenty of water before diving if you have just flown. I can understand fatigue after flying perhaps due to long flights, not being able to rest comfortably on a plane, and jet lag. Why would flying put you at greater risk for dehydration any more than any other situation?
It's a well known fact that it dries you out quickly as at height there is less moisture and your body hydrates the air with every breath.The same thing happens when you do scuba as the air is very dry and that's why you can get a case of underwater cotton-mouth.When you combine the 2 then it is even worse.
Cheers hopefully hydrated ears,
the one and only,
HVAC systems dehumidify as they cool on the ground just as they do on a plane, so I guess I don't see why altitude puts you at so much greater risk than, say, a really cold restaurant or office building with the air conditioning running full blast(pretty much the norm in Texas). HVAC systems are designed to create temperature and relative humidity conditions that are favorable to humans. These conditions range in temperature from 70 to 85 degrees farenheit and relative humidity from 30% to 70%. When RH drops below 20%, it can cause human discomfort, rough dry skin, and respiratory problems(like a dry cough). I have never experienced these symptoms flying and don't recall any static electricity problems (like when you rub your feet on the carpet and get a shock when you touch a person or metal object). In cold temperatures even a RH of 20% can cause condensation problems. I'm not sure how cold it is at 15,000 feet or whatever, but I'm sure it's pretty damn cold. At 0 degrees farenheit a double glazed window will not condensate moisture out of the air until the RH gets as high as 40%. I've noticed planes have double glazed windows and have never seen them condensate so I assume the RH is somwhere around 30% to 40%(on the dry side of the comfort zone but, sill in the comfort zone). I guess I just don't recall the air being that dry on an airplane. I work in the HVAC industry and am always noticing HVAC systems and how they perform when I go into places(my wife thinks I'm weird that way). Anyways, I'm not familiar with airplane HVAC systems, but you all have sparked my curiousity. I have never really thought about how HVAC systems affect diving. If anyone knows where I might find more info on how flying dehydrates you and how it affects diving, I would find it interesting.