DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Gastroesophageal Reflux (“Heartburn” or “Waterbrash”)

I suffer from heartburn or reflux. Does this pose a problem for me diving?

“Reflux” is a backward flow of acid or food from the stomach into the esophagus. Symptoms include burning upper abdominal or chest pain, sour taste or food regurgitation, which can happen when divers are in the head-down position. Symptoms can be exacerbated by:

  • drinking alcohol;
  • smoking;
  • an ulcer or hiatal hernia;
  • certain medications such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); or
  • a tight-fitting belt or wetsuit.

Physicians treat reflux with medications or through surgery.

While most people may experience occasional mild heartburn, if reflux of gastric contents occurs while one is diving, a diver could be at significant risk. Aspirating food or acid into the lungs or into the regulator could be fatal. Individuals with significant reflux should not dive.