Altitude sickness = Decompression Sickness?

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

Boyan

Registered
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Location
Vienna
# of dives
25 - 49
I am trying to understand decompression. From what I understand DCS is similar to altitude sickness because the treatment for both is oxygen and a hyperbaric chamber.

If this is correct, would it be a possibility to save an altitude sickness patient by submerging him underwater (pressure = 1 bar) and letting him breathe through a snorkel?

I recently heard about a man, who died in a hotel in the mountains of decompression sickness. There was no option to descend and there was nothing that could be done. Why didn't they submerge him underwater in order to bring him to 1 bar?

And, if you dive in altitude, but for whatever reason do not have enough gas to account for the high altitude in your decompression, is there a scenario where you would stay barely underwater breathing through a snorkel in order to bridge to the high altitude?
 

boulderjohn

Technical Instructor
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
28,065
Reaction score
22,174
Location
Boulder, CO
# of dives
1000 - 2499
Altitude sickness is very different from DCS, and it is not treated with a hyperbaric chamber. It is caused primarily by a lack of oxygen to the tissues.

Putting someone under water the the depth of a snorkel (A few inches) would have zero effect for any kind of therapy or decompression.
 

boulderjohn

Technical Instructor
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
28,065
Reaction score
22,174
Location
Boulder, CO
# of dives
1000 - 2499
recently heard about a man, who died in a hotel in the mountains of decompression sickness. There was no option to descend and there was nothing that could be done. Why didn't they submerge him underwater in order to bring him to 1 bar?
Really serious altitude sickness only occurs at extremely high altitudes. I don't know the story of which you speak, but I would certainly like to know more details. Let's say your hotel was at 16,000 feet, and your person who had the severe altitude sickness had gotten it after a climb to higher altitudes. (There is such a place to stay at about that altitude on Mount Cotapaxi in Ecuador.) The atmospheric pressure would be about 0.5 bar. In order to get the person to 1 bar of pressure, he would have to be submerged in 17 feet of fresh water. You cannot breathe through a snorkel at that depth. (You cannot breathe through a snorkel at 3 feet of depth.) Even if you could do that, all you would have done is gotten him under pressure. You would not have helped with the damage previously done because of the oxygen deprivation.
 

Boyan

Registered
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Location
Vienna
# of dives
25 - 49
It is my understanding, that altitude sickness is treated by pressure?

From Wikipedia:

Altitude sickness - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • For more serious cases of AMS, or where rapid descent is impractical, a Gamow bag, a portable plastic hyperbaric chamber inflated with a foot pump, can be used to reduce the effective altitude by as much as 1,500 m (5,000 ft). A Gamow bag is generally used only as an aid to evacuate severe AMS patients, not to treat them at altitude.
The case has happened in Nepal. Not sure about the specific details.

Pressure under water, even if only 1 cm should still be more than immediately above it under air, especially in high altitude?
 

BRT

not a soft touch
Messages
17,122
Reaction score
15,053
Location
Oroville
I think if you had scuba gear and a pool that was deep enough you could possibly help altitude sickness. Probably things that are not available most places people get altitude sickness.
 

Charles2

Contributor
Messages
532
Reaction score
326
Location
Montgomery, Texas
# of dives
I just don't log dives
'Altitude Sickness' is different from 'Altitude Induced Decompression Sickness' perhaps you have the two mixed up.

John is correct. It will take more depth of water than is available by snorkel alone to remedy decompression sickness.
 

boulderjohn

Technical Instructor
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
28,065
Reaction score
22,174
Location
Boulder, CO
# of dives
1000 - 2499
As the quote fro Wikipedia says, that bag, which has a really very small effect, is not used for treatment but rather as an aid to evacuation. If you read all the rest of the bullet points in the article, you will see that a hyperbaric chamber is never mentioned.

to make the math simple, I will pretend we have an ocean with us at high level and use sea water calculations. One atmosphere of pressure is equal to the weight of 10 meters of sea water. That means that one atmosphere of pressure is equal to 1,000 cm of sea water. If you got your patient under 1 cm of water, you will have raised the pressure by 1/1,000 atmospheres.
 

Boyan

Registered
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Location
Vienna
# of dives
25 - 49
As the quote fro Wikipedia says, that bag, which has a really very small effect, is not used for treatment but rather as an aid to evacuation. If you read all the rest of the bullet points in the article, you will see that a hyperbaric chamber is never mentioned.

to make the math simple, I will pretend we have an ocean with us at high level and use sea water calculations. One atmosphere of pressure is equal to the weight of 10 meters of sea water. That means that one atmosphere of pressure is equal to 1,000 cm of sea water. If you got your patient under 1 cm of water, you will have raised the pressure by 1/1,000 atmospheres.

My error is that I thought 1 bar is 0 meters and not 10 meters. I understand now, you are correct, the snorkel idea would not work.

Still, if pressure didn't help, why would it be used during transportation? Is the descent only function to provide more oxygen? If this is the case, why do some people get altitude sickness symptoms when flying?
 

Boyan

Registered
Messages
64
Reaction score
7
Location
Vienna
# of dives
25 - 49
'Altitude Sickness' is different from 'Altitude Induced Decompression Sickness' perhaps you have the two mixed up.

John is correct. It will take more depth of water than is available by snorkel alone to remedy decompression sickness.

hmm i thought that they are fundamentally interlinked somehow.
 

boulderjohn

Technical Instructor
ScubaBoard Supporter
Messages
28,065
Reaction score
22,174
Location
Boulder, CO
# of dives
1000 - 2499
I dive at relatively high altitude very frequently. I often dive at 4,600 feet, and I have dived as high as 11,600 feet, although I have never done at decompression dive at that altitude.

Altitude does indeed affect your decompression schedule, but it by itself should never result in an out of gas situation. You plan for your gas needs taking all that into effect, so you are just as likely (or unlikely) to tun out of gas at altitude as at sea level, and breathing would provide the same benefit (or lack of benefit) at any altitude.

BTW, decompression planning for very high altitude has never been studied, and people should not go into a very high altitude dive without first consulting with true experts on high altitude decompression--I am talking about NASA experts, for example. Some dive programs will give you a decompression schedule for a 200 foot dive at 16,000 feet, but since such a dive has never been done successfully, how can they know it will work?
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/teric/

Top Bottom