How To Treat Injuries Caused By Marine Life [Video]

Although rare, injuries caused by marine life are a possibility for divers due to the potential of unexpected contact with poisonous or otherwise harmful marine life.

It  is a good idea for divers to become knowledgeable about how to handle injuries caused by encounters with harmful marine life.

Four types of potential marine life injuries are referenced in this post.  In addition,  links to a 2 part comprehensive Hazardous Marine Life Injuries series is included below that covers how to prevent, treat and minimize the effects of scuba related injuries due to marine life.

Read on below for details about how to handle injuries cause by contact with Jellyfish, Lionfish, Scorpionfish and Stone fish, coral cuts and abrasions as well as marine life injuries from large animal bites.

Jellyfish Stings

Of the myriad jellyfish species in our oceans, some are stingless and some can be fatal. When stung by a jellyfish, the seriousness of the situation depends on several factors, including the species, the anatomical location of the sting, the size of the area affected and whether or not the victim is allergic to the animal’s toxins. Many jellyfish stings do not require professional medical attention, but if the victim experiences severe symptoms, including chest pains and difficulty breathing, emergency medical services must be contacted immediately. Similarly, if the species is a potentially lethal one (like Australia’s infamous box jellyfish), professional medical care is imperative; and if the victim is particularly old or young, or the sting covers a large area, calling emergency services is also advisable. In general, however, first aid for all jellyfish stings follows the same guidelines. The victim should be treated out of the water, and kept as still as possible to prevent more toxins from being released and spreading around the body.

If there are any visible tentacles on the victim’s body, these should be removed using tweezers, forceps, or gloves to avoid further stings. After the tentacles have been removed, the best way to clear any remaining stinging cells, or nematocysts, is to apply shaving cream, and use a razor or credit card to carefully scrape them from the skin. If you do not have these tools on hand, use salt water to flush the affected area — never fresh water, as the latter may cause unfired nematocysts to release their poison. Contrary to popular urban myth, urine should also be avoided for the same reason, as should alcohol. Some sources (including DAN) recommend using household vinegar for sting relief while others, such as the British National Health Service, advise not to for fear that the vinegar may also trigger remaining nematocysts. Instead, it is recommended to either apply an ice pack to the affected area or to soak it in hot water to afford the victim pain relief after all tentacles and stinging cells have been removed.

Lionfish, Scorpionfish and Stonefish Injuries

All three of these fish species are highly venomous, and have spines on their dorsal, anal and pectoral fins capable of injecting venom into a diver’s skin. Typically, injuries from any one of these fish require emergency care; in the case of the stonefish, professional medical attention is compulsory. Of the three, the stonefish’s venom is the most potent and can be fatal — victims will require anti-venom injections as part of their treatment. First-aid care is the same for both lionfish and scorpionfish injuries. Once the diver is safely out of the water and in a stable environment, use tweezers to gently remove any spine fragments embedded in the wound. Then, soak the wound in hot water — as hot as the victim can tolerate without burning the skin. These species’ venom is protein-based, and begins to breakdown and deactivate with the application of heat, so soaking in hot water will not only relieve pain but also reduce the effects of the venom itself.

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(* Warning … the following videos are highly graphic and comprehensive training material for scuba divers*)

See Next page below for a comprehensive & graphic 2 part video for divers about hazardous marine life injuries and how to handle them.

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