Nasty snot in the mask is a common issue and another one of the unladylike things I suffer with. I experience often. I am one of those many people across America and especially in Florida who struggle with sinus pressure and pain. Rich will tell you that I can tell him when a good strong storm is coming by the pressure build up. In general I like to keep the Aleve cold and siuns 12 hour tablets around. I take them on all dive trips, just in case. I decided to start a little fact finding mission on how and why this happens and how it affects divers in particular. Let me start by saying that PADI recommends not to dive if you are sick or have a cold. I have never been one to play by the rules and being a very busy person who can’t necessarily take whenever I want off, I plan accordingly. That is my personal decision. Keep in mind that I do alot of shore diving and am not in 60 foot waters when I make this decision many times. So with that disclaimer out of the way, I want to find out if there is any way to prevent, block or help the sinus issues and how to treat them when they could affect my diving plans.
What do I know to start out with?
Middle ear and sinus barotrauma are the most common injuries associated with exposure to increasing and decreasing pressure. Descent in the water adds approximately one-half pound of pressure for each foot of descent and diminishes a similar amount on ascent. According to Boyle’s Law, as the pressure increases on descent, the volume of a gas in an enclosed space decreases proportionately. As the pressure decreases on ascent, the volume of the gas increases proportionately. On descent it is imperative that all enclosed air filled spaces be equalized actively or passively. On ascent, the increasing volume usually vents itself naturally.
Mucous production increases to protect the membranes in the sinuses etc. I think cold also increases it. So when you dive, you may get some snot in your mask. There is the saline nose kettle thing everyone raves about so some salt water must be pretty good. With that said, that is all I know, as this post increases I hope to get to the cause of the issue and learn how to reduce or prevent it.
I would highly recommend starting out by watching the following video. It was made created by Edmond Kay, MD in 2002. It will help address issues to help you clear your ears as the pressure changes. In this video, lecture Dr. Kay discusses techniques for preventing middle ear barotrauma. Learn what to do to equalize pressure in your ears, teach others proper techniques and learn the safest way to prevent “ear squeeze”.
The Diver’s Ear – Under Pressure
so here we go…
Medical background on sinuses:
The sinuses are hollow spaces inside the bones of the head. You have one over each eye, and one in each cheek bone under each eye then there are a few more inside the head adjoining the nasal cavity. Since they are hollow they contain gas and are subjected to the affects of Boyle’s law. Boyle’s Law says that there is an inverse relationship between pressure and the volume of gas in gas-filled spaces. Increasing pressure on descent reduces the gas volume and decreasing pressure on ascent increases the gas volume proportionately. Unless we equalize pressure on descent or allow the expanding gas on ascent to escape, problems related to barotrauma (pressure damage) can occur. Divers will equalize by swallowing, and blowing air out ears. Boyle’s Law is one of the reasons for a slow descent. Until the damaged areas heal, you are supposed to stay out of the water. If you scuba dive and the pressure in the sinuses (equalizing)does not change as you descend, the crushing affect results in extremely sharp pain.