Skydiving and Asthma

Would you go sky diving with me? I took a minute to let the question sink in. I don't recall exactly how the topic of sky diving came up in a conversation with a friend but it did. I'm generally pretty content to keep myself firmly planted on the ground. I gave a noncommittal answer and the conversation moved on. However, this got me wondering, could I go sky diving with asthma? Would going up to altitude in an aircraft and opening the door cause some kind of issue with my breathing?

Sky diving isn't probably on the short of list of activities doctors expect patients to engage in. It's not nearly as common as driving or operating heavy machinery. Not so surprisingly, there aren't randomized controlled trials on skydiving with asthma. I'd be intrigued to read the study design proposal if a research team tried to do that as a double blinded study.

I found some guidance on the matter of Skydiving with asthma from the British Parachute Association (BPA). Apparently, I could be in good company among "many asthmatics who skydive successfully and safely but this does rely on their condition being fairly well controlled".1 I can only imagine what kind of look I'd get from my doctor when I ask if my asthma is well enough controlled to go sky diving. No doubt, that is not the expected answer to the "What questions do you have for me today?" That usually closes my appointments.

The BPA brings up some important factors to consider when deciding whether or not to sky dive:

  1. Assume you will not have access to you inhaler while in the plane, diving, or immediately after completing your jump.
  2. You may land in a field full of pollen if this is a trigger for your asthma.
  3. At altitude the partial pressure of oxygen is lower.
  4. For steroid dependent asthmatics the risk of osteoporotic fractures is increased.
  5. You will be exposed to cold air if this is a trigger for you.

If all these risks sound acceptable to you they provide further criteria for jumping safely: well controlled asthma as defined by you and your doctor, exercise or cold air induced is being prevented by appropriate treatments, peak flow/spirometry is normal or nearly normal, and if steroid dependent, assessed to have normal bone density.1 I would be a bit concerned about landing a field of pollen. Cold air will also sometimes give me asthma troubles. I assume I could pre-medicate sufficiently well to take care of these possible hurdles. I am guessing that where I to ask permission to sky dive my care team would grant it. However, I don't meet other criteria for the local sky diving place. To be frank I don't think I'd enjoy skydiving even if I met all the criteria and pre-treated for asthma symptoms.

Have you every been sky diving? Have you asked your doctor about participating in other thrill seeking activities?

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