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Health & Diving
Decompression Sickness

Decompression Sickness

State of Hydration


Dehydration gets a substantial amount of attention in the lay diving community as a risk factor for DCS, but probably more than is warranted. Sound hydration is important for good health, both for general and for diving health, but for your dive profile, thermal stress and exertion level are far more important risk factors for DCS. The undue focus on dehydration is probably a result of two issues. The first is that substantial fluid shifts can result from DCS, often creating a need for substantial fluid therapy and creating an impression that this was a cause, rather than a consequence, of the disease. The second issue is human nature — the understandable desire to assign blame for a condition that is capricious. DCS is fickle. A diver may adhere to a similar dive profile many times without incident but then develop DCS while following the very same profile. It is comforting to try and identify a single causal agent, even if this is more wishful than factual. It is important for divers to realize that a multitude of factors can subtly affect the risk on any one dive and that there is a probabilistic nature to the disease. Focusing on a range of strategies to reduce risk is more effective than trying to put all the blame on one.
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