Updated Covid-19 Scuba Diving Safety Advice from Diver's Alert Network

dan covid 19 update title

The Diver's Alert Network (DAN) has issued updated advice relating to divers who have suffered from Covid-19 infections and are planning a return to scuba diving. Covid-19 has particular implications for the scuba diving community as the SARS-COV-2 virus which causes it targets the heart, lungs, circulatory and respiratory systems – those most affected by pressure when we dive.

In May 2020, the Diver's Alert Network (DAN) published recommendations for scuba divers planning to return to the water after a Covid-19 infection. The recommendations were based on medical advice compiled by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS) in the USA, the Belgian Society for Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine (SBMHS-BVOOG), the European Committee for Hyperbaric Medicine and Underwater and Baromedical Society (ECHM & EUBS), and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD).

Little was known at that time about the effects of Covid-19, however, almost one year later there is much more data available on the damage that SARS-COV-2 can do to the heart and lungs, and also what has become known as 'long covid', which may go unnoticed by those who are affected, but which can remain for several months following an apparent recovery from infection.

With scuba diving being allowed to resume in many locations, DAN has updated its guidelines for divers who are concerned about returning to the water. Although there is little practical information on the long-term impact of Covid-19 and scuba diving, the experience of DAN Europe physicians who have treated scuba divers who have suffered from Covid-19 has also been included in the update.

DAN notes that the recommendations may vary slightly between countries, but all divers returning to the water following a Covid-19 infection, whether they experienced symptoms or not, are urged to exercise caution before doing so. DAN also issued a medical declaration form to cover Covid-related illness.

Medical Recommendations for Returning to Diving

Note: all fit-to-dive medical clearance tests should be performed by a specialist in diving (hyperbaric) medicine. Any cardiac (heart) or pulmonary (lung-function) tests performed due to Covid-19 should be interpreted and validated by a diving medical specialist as part of that process. 

  • Divers who have tested positive for Covid-19 but remained completely asymptomatic: wait at least 30 days from the first negative test before applying for fit-to-dive clearance and eventually going back to diving.
  • Had symptomatic Covid-19: wait at least 30 days from the first negative test, plus an additional 30 days without symptoms (a total of two months) before applying for fit-to-dive clearance conducted by a diving medicine specialist.
  • Hospitalised with Covid-19 or related pulmonary (breathing) problems: wait at least THREE months before applying for fit-to-dive clearance conducted or coordinated by a diving medicine specialist. The clearance should include complete pulmonary function testing, an exercise test with oxygen saturation measurement and a high-resolution CT scan of the lungs to verify a return to normal.
  • Hospitalised with Covid-19 or related cardiac (heart) problems: wait at least THREE months before applying for fit-to-dive clearance conducted or coordinated by a diving medicine specialist. The clearance should include cardiac evaluation, including echocardiography and an exercise test (exercise electrocardiography) to ascertain normal cardiac function. 

DAN medical declaration title

DAN has also issued a scuba diving medical questionnaire to cover Covid-related illness (click to download)

Other Risk Factors

Due to the complications caused by Covid-19, there are other risk factors associated with scuba diving for which there is very little - if any - data at all. It is known that the SARS-COV-2 can cause serious, long-term damage to the heart and lungs which potentially may increase the risk of pulmonary barotrauma (lung overexpansion injuries), pulmonary oxygen toxicity, and other forms of decompression illness, including decompression sickness (DCS or 'the bends')

The most important step in determining if a diver is at a higher risk of being affected by one or more of these problems is through a diving medical examination, and DAN urges divers who may be at risk to consider that:

  • Damage to the lungs caused by Covid-19 may lead to Pulmonary Overpressure Syndrome (aka lung barotrauma or a lung overexpansion injury), regardless of whether or not a diver makes a rapid or uncontrolled ascent
  • At-risk divers should avoid technical and rebreather diving which involves prolonged exposure to hyperoxic gas mixtures with an oxygen partial pressure of 1.3 ATA or higher. Recreational style 'simple nitrox diving' – during which divers might breathe a maximum ppO2 of 1.4 ATA for only a few moments – is not expected to present any problem.
  • Divers who have suffered from pulmonary symptoms during a Covid-19 infection should limit their dives to well within the no-decompression limits (NDL) of their dive computers and avoid mandatory decompression stops.

(so that at no moment during the dive, the computer indicates mandatory decompression stops). (Reference: Belgian Society for Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine) 

Preventing the Spread of Covid-19

It is generally accepted that Covid-19 will remain with us for some time - possibly permanently - and therefore present an ongoing risk of transmission and infection. The general advice for preventing the spread of SARS-COV-2 at this time remains the same:

  • Continue social distancing and wear face masks at the surface
  • Thoroughly disinfect all dive equipment
  • Don't use communal rinse tanks
  • Avoid air-sharing or regulator exchange except in emergencies
  • Plan out-of-air training exercises in such a way that regulators are not shared


The full article published by DAN in Alert Diver can be found at www.alertdiver.eu/en_US/articles/what-you-should-know-about-diving-after-covid-19

digital dive gif



Love diving? You'll love these. Sign up today to immediately download our unique FREE gifts -

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 WRECKS - DIVE's 70-page, beautifully illustrated, colour guide to the world’s best wrecks

SCUBA STORIES - DIVE's collection f real life stories where divers, who have got themselves into perilous situations, describe how they reacted and what actions they took to ensure they lived to tell the tale

PACIFICHighlights of the Pacific - Dancing mantas in Hawaii • The Best Diving in the World, Galápagos, Cocos, Malpelo & Socorro • Mass Spawning Events in Palau

New Upright Gift Banners 300 x 600 px

Sidebar SUBSCRIBE spring 21 large2

Destinations Spotlight

Need inspiration for your next dive trip? Try one of our featured destinations from DIVE's travel partners.

sidebar philippines sidebar bahamas sidebar mexico sidebar fiji sidebar st helena 2020 Sidebar Egypt sidebar banner sabah sidebar banner belize sidebar banner south africa

DIVE Partners

sidebar banner egypt new ceningan divers ad 300x100 LH 300 min giphy subex Wakatobi Siladen Aggressor Fisheye Dive Worldwide gozo banner Arenui

Read DIVE magazine

DIVE magazine is available to read on many devices. Simply click one one of the options below

PCMac final
Apple finalAndroid final

Like what you see?

Join us on social and keep updated daily...