Charity Number: 279652

Scuba diver diving under a boat

02 October 2018

Worried divers with possible symptoms of decompression illness (also known as DCI, decompression sickness or ‘the bends’) are often reluctant phone the National Diving Accident Helpline. But why?

Frequently, divers are concerned that calling for advice will automatically result in recompression therapy, enforced time off diving and general inconvenience. They often try to ignore mild symptoms, blaming muscles strains or fatigue for example, but these can be the first signs of decompression illness.

Diving Physicians recognise that denial is actually a potential symptom of DCI.

The doctors at Plymouth based charity ‘DDRC Healthcare’ take the calls made to the National Diving Accident Helpline, on behalf of the British Hyperbaric Association (BHA). All our physicians are experienced specialists in diving and hyperbaric medicine, and qualified to DMAC Level 2D. They are all divers themselves too.

If it is thought advisable or necessary for a diver to be seen face-to-face by a Diving Doctor, they will be referred to the most appropriate UK hyperbaric facility. The BHA Diving Doctor then coordinates the response between the diver and the facility.

The majority of callers are not required to be seen face-to-face. Those divers who do ring and just receive telephone advice usually find it very reassuring.

Our advice is if you have any concerns or nagging doubts after diving, don’t sit quietly and worry about potential symptoms. Pick up the phone and make that call.

How Likely Is It That A Diver Will Have Re-compression Therapy?

The situation varies according to individual circumstances of course, but as an example;

In 2017 DDRC Healthcare Diving Doctors were contacted by 115 divers with concerns after diving. Of these, only 33 were asked to attend for a face-to-face assessment and just 21 divers actually received recompression therapy.

How do I contact the National Diving Accident Helpline?

Call 07831 151 523 in England & Wales. In Scotland call 0345 408 6008.

If at sea and experiencing an emergency call the Coastguard via 999 or Channel 16.

What are the Symptoms of DCI? How is DCI Diagnosed & Treated?

For lots more information on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of DCI, as well as advice on how to reduce the risks of getting DCI, visit our diving advice pages.