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Decompression sickness (DCS) is a condition when the body is exposed to rapid decompression of flying at high altitudes in an unpressurized aircraft. The nitrogen the bodies’ fluids and tissues come out of solution, resulting into forming bubbles in curtain areas of the body. One of the most common symptoms is joint pain, known as “The Bends”.

What is "The Bends"?

The bends, typically causes pain. The pain usually occurs in the joints of the arms or legs, back, or muscles. Sometimes the location is hard to pinpoint.

Treating DCS:

  • Put on an approved oxygen mask and set regulator to 100% oxygen flow.

  • Emergency descent and land as soon as possible.

  • Seek medical attention immediately from an FAA medical office, aviation medical examiner (AME), military flight surgeon. (Note: a physician may not be familiar with aviation medicine)

Scuba Rule

Aeronautical Information Manuel (AIM) states that if a pilot or passengers want to fly after scuba diving, they need to have sufficient rest time after a dive. To allow their body to rid of any nitrogen build up in their body during diving.

The recommended rest times are as follows:

  • Altitudes up to 8,000 feet MSL (measured sea level), you should rest for at least 12 hours after diving. (No decompression stops)

  • Altitudes, 8,000 feet MSL and above, you should rest for at least 24 hours.


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