Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Headache! Why Does My Head Hurt After Scuba Diving?

Photo by Oliver Evangelista from video


Fish Geek's Technique Speak

Headaches, diving, and what you can do about them.

"I love diving, but I always end up with a killer headache afterwards! Why? Is there something I can do about them? Should I be concerned? Do I have the bends?!?!"
We get this question here at Fish Geek Central all the time, and mostly: No, you most likely aren't bent with the shallow reef dives and long, chatty, whale-watching surface intervals on our boat. But there are some things we can talk about to maybe ease your headaches!

Reason: Dehydration
Solution: Drink more water!
Actually, the most common reason for headaches, and the most common reason we see on the boat, is not drinking enough water. I know: You get off an airplane (with dry air) and you drink a big ol' Mai Tai (dehydrating), then a Coke from the mini-bar (dehydrating), then maybe wine with dinner (dehydrating), wake up the next morning for your much-anticipated dive trip and slam a quick coffee... It's not the Bends- It's lack of water! We drink a ton of water in Hawaii because of sun and saltwater and and an active lifestyle. You should too! Now you are left with the question: How can I drink enough water and still refrain from peeing in my wetsuit! Argh!

Reason: Hypercapnea
Solution: Breathe normally. Perfect Buoyancy. Wash out CO2 with deep safety stop breaths. 
Oh dear! "Hypercapnea" sounds serious! But it just means "excess carbon dioxide". There are many reasons carbon dioxide builds up in our bodies: Increased breathing rate due to stress or exertion, dead-air spaces inside our scuba gear, or some people's physiology just creates and holds carbon dioxide more. The increased pressure: both water pressure and physical and mental stress of diving can make us breathe harder and cause a build-up of CO2. Also, an inappropriate technique called "skip-breathing" causes CO2 buildup. Skip-Breathing is adding breath-holds to your breathing in a faulty attempt to slow your breathing down (inhale-hold-exhale-hold). But this technique actually causes the circulatory CO2 to increase, leading to faster, stressed breathing, and earlier tank air depletion. A better idea is to focus on breathing normally, perfecting buoyancy skills so your gear does the work for you, and letting the joys of diving naturally relax and slow your breathing. Obsessively tracking your breathing rate will increase stress. Stop obsessing. (Now you're obsessing, aren't you.)

Finally, on your 3 minute safety stop at 15', take some nice, deep breaths. Often we breathe shallowly, which increases dead-air space. Take some deep breaths that fill your whole lungs through your abdomen. Hold onto a line if the deep, slow breaths make you positively buoyant. Spending a bit of your 3 minute stop breathing whole breaths may help.

Reason : Jaw fatigue.
Solution: Relax teeth. Try new mouthpiece.
An often overlooked reason for diver headaches may be jaw stress. We are supposed to lightly hold the regulator mouthpiece with our teeth, while primarily holding the regulator in with our lips. But our bitten-through rental regulator mouthpieces tell a different story! Locking our teeth on the regulator will tense all those jaw muscles and cause headaches later. Try relaxing your teeth, wiggling your jaw (Hey! That helps with ear equalization!), or even touching your jaw bone with a few fingers to remind yourself to relax. Another solution is trying a few different mouthpieces until you find one that allows your teeth some comfort. There are ones with longer teeth plates, shorter plates, cushioned, mold-able, and this diver's favorite: A mouthpiece that holds in against the roof of the mouth, taking the back teeth completely out of the equation. (Middle black mouthpiece on reg in photo). 

Reason: Contaminated Air.
Solution: Have your tanks filled by a reputable shop that changes it's filters regularly. A good clue is- Does everyone on-board have the same headache? Is there an oily taste to the air? Our own Captain Stephen tracks and changes our filters, and we all know how detailed and clean he likes things! Also: If you are on a boat, stay away from diesel engine fumes. Move forward to be in the cleansing sea air (and also get a better view of Spinner dolphins!)

Reason: Sinuses.
Solution: Do not dive with a cold! You probably can't equalize your ears and sinuses anyway with a head cold. Snorkeling is a great solution!

Reason: Badly fitting mask or hood.
Solution: Loosen your mask strap! Remember, the water pressure holds your mask in place, and a tight strap will hurt your forehead and actually make your mask leak more, as the skirt of the mask peels back under the stress of the tightened strap. Make sure your mask is positioned correctly on the crown of your head, and not folding or crushing your ears. Finally, make sure your snorkel keeper or clip isn't digging into your temple or pulling your hair.
Reason: Your buddy is driving you crazy!
Solution: Well. All we can say is, spend the surface interval talking with them, reminding them what it means to be a good dive buddy. Good luck!

While "headache" can be one of the symptoms of many more serious conditions, including decompression illness, with a lack of additional symptoms one of your headache reasons is probably listed above. However, please don't ignore more serious symptoms. Communicate any symptoms or concerns with your Captain, crew, divemaster, and buddies. We have an extensive first aid kit aboard with an Oxygen kit, a cooler full of water, and a willing ear. 

Be safe out there!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fish Geek's Pick-Of-The-Week: Extra Geeky Edition! Hybrid Thompson x Pyramid!

Hemitaurichthys Hybrid. Photo by John P. Hoover.

Hybrid! Of Pyramid and Thompson's Butterflies!

Pyramid: Hemitaurichthys polylepis ("many scales")
Thompson's: Hemitaurichthys thompsoni (after John W. Thompson of the Bishop Museum)

Kelleen says, "Sometime in July (according to my logbook) I spotted this individual with a small school of pyramids on a gently sloped dropoff near 40'. It was like the area it occupied suddenly went black & white. My first thought was that it was a pyramid with no pigment, like an albino, but grey is still pigment, yes? Robyn thought it may be hybrid of Thompson's and Pyramid, and upon seeing it, John P. Hoover agreed. Being Hapa myself, I have much love for a hybrid!"
Indeed, Hybrids are very rare and special. The hybrid species we most often see on our dives are surgeonfish. This summer's epic bloom of surgeons and butterflies has increased the amount and distribution of pyramids on our sites. Thompson's butterflies, often called "Businessmen butterfly" due to their grey suits, are a rare butterfly most often seen in the waters of Hawaii island. Although neither fish is endemic, the beauty of the pyramid crossed with the rarity of the Thompson's makes this a special and rare fish. Upon revisiting a site, we are more apt to locate distinctive individuals like a hybrid, albino, or a fish with a noticeable wound or deformation. Because we are sappy fish geeks, we feel like these fish are our pet friends, and we worry about them being eaten, caught or captured. The staff at the Bishop museum commented that any variation (hybrid, albino, deformed) is exciting, not to mention a never before documented hybrid.

John E. Randall says, "More natural hybrids of coral reef fishes have been found in the butterflyfish and angelfish families... It should be noted, however, that hybrids are rarely a perfect amalgamation of the color patterns of the two parent species. Often a hybrid resembles one parent more than the other. This could be the result of the hybrid breeding with one of the original parent species." He also noted that he "Never saw that hybrid". 
 John P. Hoover says, "Possibly the only known hybrid in genus Hemitaurichthys."
Another beautiful photo from John P. Hoover

Kama'aina? Not endemic, but so rare and special!
Size: Both species only get to about 3".
Depth: Drop-offs and ledges around 40', with these two species often schooling together.
White List? Pyramid butterflies are on the white list, meaning they are legal to take. Thompson's are not on the list. Unknown where legally a hybrid of the two would fall. 
Albinos and hybrids are not only valuable for ichthyologists to study, but also unfortunately valuable in the aquarium trade, often fetching larger sums. We are therefore worried about this guy and hope it gets to live a long life and breed on the reef, instead of selfishly belonging only to one collector. Luckily, this fish exists in an area illegal to take fish for the aquarium trade. 
Please feel free to ask us questions about this special fish: We are excited to share this find with our enthusiastic and appreciative divers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fish Geek's Pick-Of-The-Week: Red Hawaiian Turkey Fish, Of Course!

Red Hawaiian Turkey Fish, by Scott Rettig

Red Hawaiian Turkey Fish

Hawaiian: nohu pinao
Latin: Pterois sphex

Beautiful red and white stripes and frilly fins and spines make the Red Hawaiian Turkey fish a gorgeous fish to spot on the reef. To find them in the daytime, look under ledges or on the ceilings of lava tubes. We see juveniles that are only one or two inches long, much smaller than the usual scuba diver expects, and we often spot their long white spines first, mistaking them for shrimp! Sometimes also known as the Red Hawaiian Lionfish, the Turkeyfish all belong in the Scorpionfish family (nohu). The Species name in Hawaiian, "pinao", means "dragonfly", while the Latin (actually Greek) "sphex" means "wasp", for the painful sting from the venomous spines.
John P. Hoover says, "At night they glide forth, with fins extended, hunting for small crabs or shrimps. Lucky daytime divers may see them swimming openly in the late afternoon or early morning. The spines are venomous; these fishes should not be played with or handled."
Robyn says, "Our beautiful endemic red lionfish are rare and special when we see the (mostly juvenile) individuals on the Kohala Coast. But they are a bit of a 'hard sell' to our divers used to huge invasive Caribbean Lionfish. We need to immediately change their perception by saying, 'No wait: These are special. These are endemic. And here on the Kohala Coast they are small and rare. THIS is why we love them.' "
Indeed, sometimes our scuba divers have heard of the problems an invasive lionfish has caused the environments of the Atlantic and Caribbean seas, and the eradication attempts of divers there. But this is not that fish! Our species is native to Hawaii, and much loved on the rare times we spot them.

Kama'aina? Endemic!
Size: Largest seen about 8", but we usually see to about 2".
Depth:They enjoy shallow ledges.
White List? Not legal to take in West Hawaii. Apparently these were so popular in aquariums that the area sites are pretty well stripped, and their rareness is why we get so excited!