Preventing and Treating Coral Scrapes whilst Diving Moalboal
Based on article by DocVikingo
Look, Dont't Touch
Scuba diving is traditionally a look, don't touch kind of sport, but even careful divers can inadvertently run into trouble. By far the most common diving injury is the common scrape, usually from coral. Marine aware divers dive without dive gloves and many marine protected sites ban the wearing of gloves so that divers will not be tempted to touch marine life. So the chances of an accidental scrape become more likely to occur.
Types of Injuries
Irritations often occur as a result of a brush with coral or sponges. Coral scrapes can be painful and sometimes difficult to heal because the living organisms in the coral can get into the wound and cause infections. Contact with a sponge can leave irritating fibres in the skin, producing an itching rash that can range from mild to severe, possibly with pain and blistering.
Prevention & Treatment
Even if you're careful, it's likely you'll come into contact with coral someday. My first encounter with fire coral gave me an inflamed hand that lasted one week. If and when you get a scrape, here's what to do:
1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure your body is covered, even if just by a dive skin.
2. Regularly irrigate a scrape with copious amounts of vinegar over a period of about 30 minutes.
3. Apply triple-antibiotic to the wound twice a day for a couple of days.
4. Scrapes can become infected even with proper initial care. Watch for hotness to the touch, redness or red streaks around the site, swelling, discharge of pus, or fever. If you see them, contact a doctor.
5. Fragments of coral sometimes become lodged beneath the skin and the body mounts a prolonged allergic reaction to them. In some cases, debridement is required to resolve the reaction.
Even in the absence of embedded coral remnants, it is not unusual for a marked hypersensitivity response to a coral injury to continue for three to four weeks before significantly improving. Sometimes the lesion will resolve but then return.
If a scrape doesn't substantially resolve within a month, or gets worse, you should consult a dermatologist.
Worst Case Scenario
Even innocent injuries can turn deadly if you have an allergic or severe reaction. After any accident, watch for severe swelling, dizziness, blurred vision, breathing difficulties, weakness, muscle pain, cold sweat and a rapid heartbeat. If any occur, call DAN’s emergency hotline immediately. CPR may be necessary until help arrives.
The Turtle Bay Dive Boat and Dive Centre carry first aid kits that can be used for on the spot treatment; however the nearest large hospital to Moalboal is South General Hospital which is 90 minutes drive from Moalboal. So my advice to all divers coming to Moalboal, or to a remote dive location in the Philippines, is to make sure you are a paid up member of DAN (Divers Alert Network) so that expert advice is just a phone call away.