The importance of the medical questionnaire

The importance of the medical questionnaire

Whenever you do a dive course you need to fill in a dive medical questionnaire. It is a list of medical conditions that might require you to have clearance from a doctor before you can commence your in-water training. We often forget about the conditions on this form once our training is done though. However, it is important to check in with your medical professional if your health status changes to ensure your safety while diving.

While conditions caused by serious dive accidents like collapsed lungs and decompression sickness require you to have a medical clearance before returning to the water, we need to keep in mind that there are other, less thought of, conditions that could require medical clearance too. If at any point your medical condition changes it is recommended that you get clearance from a medical professional before your next dive.

5 Medical conditions that you might not know could affect your diving safety.

  • Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

A small opening between the two atria (chambers in your heart). Everyone is born with this and it usually grows shit after birth, however, in about 30% of adults PFO exists. PFO could put you at a higher risk for DCI.

  • Gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea

Also known as Gastro, food poisoning and traveller’s diarhea. Not only can this cause dehydration, the symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) are not conducive to diving. Furthermore medications taken for fausea, vomiting and diarrhea could have undesired side effects like sedation.

  • Chronic Reflux

Commonly known as Heartburn and Waterbrash. This is when acid or food from the stomach flows backward into the esophagus. Although most of us experience mild heartburn on occasion, if it happens while diving it could be detrimental to you. According to Divers Alert Network, reflux could lead to the diver inhaling food or acid which could be fatal. They recommend that individuals with significant reflux should not dive. Speak to your medical practitioner if you experiences significant reflux.

  • Liver Cirrhosis

Liver cirrhosis is due to fibrosis of liver tissue that could be caused by toxic substances (like alcohol) or viral infections (like hepatitis). Your medical professional could advice you whether it is prudent to dive with cirrhosis based on the symptoms that you are experiencing.

  • Anaemia

Any blood disorder that could affect the transport of oxygen in your body as well as the degassing process places you at a higher risk of getting DCI. Anaemia could also lead to hypoxia. Consult your medical professional before diving with anaemia.

Honesty is the best – and safest- policy

It could be tempting to answer “No” for a question that you might think isn’t a big deal- especially when you have travelled so far to dive and there are whale sharks in the water. However, it is super important that you are completely honest when you answer these questionnaires – and indeed to refresh your memory of the conditions listed on these forms. Speak to your medical professional and/or dive professional if you have any questions or concerns.

If you are unsure of whether you are fit to dive, rather skip the dive. It is better to cancel a dive than put yourself, other divers and dive staff in danger.

*A version of this article first appeared at

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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