The Dangers of Nitrogen Narcosis

Scuba diving is a lot of fun and a great sport. What’s amazing about diving is that you can experience many things that just do not exist topside. For example, underwater you can find an amazing array of plant and animal life. The colors the sensory effects and the physical sensations, just can’t be matched topside.

Unfortunately, scuba diving carries some serious risks. These risks include the possibility of death. The good news here is that if you get some good training and perhaps attend a certified scuba diving program of instruction, these risks can be minimized.

At or near the top of the list of risks is Nitrogen Narcosis. Diving too deep causes Nitrogen Narcosis. Symptoms include disorientation, euphoria, judgment errors, unconsciousness and or hallucinations. Any of these symptoms can prove fatal.

As of yet, the cause of Nitrogen Narcosis is not precisely known. Many scientists believe is has something to do with how pressurized nitrogen gets into the nerve cells in the brain.

Water pressure increases by 1 atm per 33 feet descended.  Regulators are devices that allow air to be drawn air tanks and breathed by the diver. The result is that the air breathed is at the same pressure as the surroundings. This is important so that the lungs can function normally, without so much pressure that breathing is difficult.

When air is compressed it contains nitrogen that gets into the bloodstream via the lungs. When that happens, sometimes the symptoms mentioned above occur.

Most divers begin to feel the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis at about 100 feet below the surface. Some divers feel it sooner and some later. How close to 100 feet below sea-level divers feel these effects depend on things like age, conditioning, training and what they did just before the dive.

No one escapes Nitrogen Narcosis. It impacts everyone starting at around 100 feet below sea level. Nitrogen Narcosis gets really serious at around 300 feet below sea level. At that depth you are pretty much guaranteed hallucinations, unconsciousness and or motor malfunction.

The good news is that the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis can be reversed. The bad news is that once your judgment goes, it’s hard to do a proper enough ascent so that you avoid decompression sickness. Decompression sickness is when you come up too fast.

Sometimes your training can have an impact on the depth at which Nitrogen Narcosis happens. However, the fact of the matter is that it’s possible to avoid any and all damage caused by Nitrogen Narcosis.

One way to blunt the ill effects of Nitrogen Narcosis involves a dive buddy and hand signals. When diving with a buddy, as you should always do, you can use the thumbs test.

The thumbs test involves one diver holding up a few fingers and then indicating addition by using the thumb in the up position and then another number of fingers. For example, two fingers, thumb up and then one finger equals three fingers. If the receiving diver gets the answer right, they are probably still okay.

A glitch associated with the thumb test is that both divers have to be near each other. As a result, they may both be impacted by Nitrogen Narcosis before the test is started and neither one knows it.

The solution to the thumb test glitch and all other Nitrogen Narcosis risks is a depth gauge. No one should dive without a depth gauge. In addition, it’s crucial to get into the habit of looking at your depth gauge frequently so you always know your depth.

That’s the foolproof way to avoid Nitrogen Narcosis. It’s easy, just stay above the depth at which Nitrogen Narcosis occurs.

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