Vacations to tropical resorts are known for the beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, great scuba diving, wild nights out partying and the morning hang over. I am sure that most of us have seen divers dragging themselves into the dive center nursing a hangover. Some may even still have the smell of alcohol on them. While we may chuckle at their discomfort, they may be putting themselves and even us in danger.
While science is still looking for a detail cause of a hangover and how to cure them, a simple explanation is that a hangover a set of signs and symptoms related to the bodies process to eliminate a large amount of alcohol. In doing so the bodies systems get out of the normal range. While the sufferer may be planning on diving it is possible that his condition will worsen before it gets better. Diving with a hangover can be a serious problem. The Diver who smells of alcohol should not be diving at all. That smell is an indication that he still has a high blood alcohol content (BAC). How many drinks it takes to get someone drunk or to raise their BAC to a certain level varies on many factors including weight and gender. While the legal limit for driving with a BAC is normally around .08 to .1 many people have no outward signs till they past .12 BAC, While what it takes to get to that level is not the same, the rate that it leaves your system is fairly consistent at .015 per hour. So a couple of strong pints at 2 am are still hanging about at 8am. 90% of that is broken down and the remainder is past by the lungs, urine and skin. Even when the BAC has dropped to zero, tissue may still be breaking down the alcohol that it absorbed. There has been a number of studies that show that cells breaking down alcohol release other toxins and gas at a slower rate. Relating that to divers, Nitrogen will be released from tissues at a slower rate.
The hangover creates a more complicated series of concerns. One of the largest impacts of the heavy drinking and also one of the triggers for a hangover is dehydration. Just simply drinking some water will not properly hydrate you. It may take days before your body is able to reestablish it balance. Electrolytes are also affected. Dehydration has been linked as a contributing cause in many DCS cases.
There are about 25 symptoms or conditions that medical experts associate with a hangover. Some of these can be a prime concern for divers. One is periods of lack of concentration. Victims of a hangover will often find that they lose track of what they were doing. It can last just seconds or expand to minutes, Losing situation awareness while diving can be deadly.
Here are a few others:
▪ A hangover gets worst before it gets better, it will not peak until the alcohol has been fully processed. A diver showing medium symptoms while kitting up may start having severe reactions while diving.
▪ Light headiness and dizziness are two similar items. They can effect the divers' ability to maintain proper buoyancy and concentration
▪ Slowed mental responses. The mind is reacting slower to stimuli and taking longer to make a response.
▪ Erratic motor functions, the victim may not be able to fully control all muscles. Muscles may twitch for no apparent reason.
▪ Diarrhea and Nausea/ vomiting. Opposite ends of the same problem, I will leave it to your imagination
▪ Irritability and Moodiness. Can cause irrational behavior.
▪ Fatigue. May struggle to maintain control
This is just a summary of some of the possible effects of a hang over. The best solution is to moderate your drinking so that the BAC and a hang over is not an issue. If that does not fit your plans than switch to afternoon and night dives.