Dealing with Coral Cuts and Scrapes
Dealing with coral cuts and scrapes is a common part of scuba diving and here is some tips on how to treat them.
Although scuba divers do their best not touch coral, accident contact does occur. This can cause itching, burning sensations, pain and sometimes rashes. These injuries can take weeks, even months to heal.
Here we will look at why this is so and what we can do to treat these injuries if they occur.
What is Happening in the Injury
Corals are covered by a soft layer of living tissues. The soft layer is situated on top of the hard layer of coral. When you cut yourself on some, the under hard layer does the cutting and the soft top layer matter remains in the cut itself. This matter is what inflames the wound and delays the healing process.
So long as that material remains in the wound it will have difficulty in healing. As your body is trying to remove the marine organisms you can get itchy rashes and small red bumps. These are unique to land based injuries and are often more difficult to treat.
How to Prevent Coral Injuries
Obviously try to avoid coral contact. If you are having regular issues they you should be increasing the distance between you and the coral. Wetsuits do assist as barrier between you and the coral. Ultimately, regular injuries may be due to poor diving techniques and it may be that you should have a professional look at your dive technique or look at does a course like the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course.
Are some coral more harmful?
The amount that you body reacts to the coral has to do with the amount of toxins in the coral, the size of the abrasion and where it is located. Also pre-existing sensitivity may contribute.
Corals such as Fire corals are cnidarians, so they contain nematocysts. Contacting them with a simple rub can cause mechanical activation and envenomation. The manifestation is usually blistering, which typically appears a few hours after contact.
How to Treat an Coral Injury
Clean and scrub the cut with soap and water. Continue to flush the wound with lots of water. You may need to repeat this.
Wash the wound with a 50% hydrogen peroxide/water solution and rinse thoroughly.
Continue this twice daily.
If the wound develops a a crusty outer, use wet-to-dry dressing changes. Put a dry sterile gauze pad over the wound and soak it with saline or a diluted antiseptic solution (such as 1% to 5% povidone-iodine in disinfected water). Allow it to dry then rip the bandage off the wound. The dead and dying tissue should adhere to the gauze and lift free. The tissue underneath should be pink and may bleed slightly but should be healing. Change the dressings once or twice a day. Use wet-to-dry dressings for a few days or until they become non-adherent. Then resume the regular wound dressing described above.
Inspect for any signs of infection: extreme redness, red streaks on the extremity, pain, fever, pus or swollen lymph glands. If this occurs, consult a doctor about starting an antibiotic. A possible Vibrio bacteria infection can cause illness and even death in someone with an impaired immune system (e.g., from AIDS, diabetes or chronic liver disease).
Continue to inspect for coral poisoning. If there continuing issues or doubt, contact your doctor immediately.
Continuing to dive
Always treat wounds seriously no matter how small they are. Even small wounds can get seriously infected and be detrimental to our health.
It is recommended that you let the wounds heal before continuing to dive.
As always, if you have continued issues or you are not sure please contact you medical practitioner. The cuts and scrapes should be taken seriously.
Read the full article here on the Divers Alert Network website.
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