How to deal with ocean bites and stings
WITH the holiday season underway and people heading to the coastline in greater numbers, NSW Ambulance paramedics are taking the opportunity to provide some first aid advice on ocean bites and stings.
NSW Ambulance data shows that between September 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015, paramedics attended almost 180 incidents involving patients injured by marine life.
Of these 180 incidents, 68 took place on the North Coast: 29 recorded Blue Bottle incidents, 8 jellyfish incidents, 1 octopus incident, 8 shark incidents, 22 stingray incidents.
At the extreme end, paramedics were called to 12 incidents involving suspected shark attacks, this ranging from minor injuries to fatalities.
NSW Ambulance Inspector Glen Eady, who covers the Ballina, Byron Bay and Mullumbimby areas in the state's north, was among paramedics who attended to Tadashi Nakahara who died following a shark attack at Shelly Beach in February 2015.
Inspector Eady, a 36-year career veteran, has also supported staff through other such incidents.
Inspector Eady said while a blue bottle sting could be a perceived as relatively minor, such incidents should not be dismissed wholesale.
"Each individual and each scenario is different," he said.
"Blue bottle stings can induce a potential anaphylactic or severe reaction in some people, particularly if there is any immune compromise.
"But it doesn't have to be only anaphylaxis. If you get a series of stings or if you get stung around the airway, you can get some swelling and some possible airway compromise."
He advised that due to the variety of effects that some of these bites and stings may have, it is important to remove the affected person from the water or potential danger where possible.
"Basic first aid and life support measures should be applied where appropriate and Triple Zero (000) contacted," Inspector Eady said.
Paramedics further advise the following first aid tips:
Rinse area with seawater to remove any remaining stings. If possible, place in hot water, no hotter than the patient can comfortably tolerate.
Stingrays, barbed marine creatures:
If possible, place in hot water, no hotter than the patient can comfortably tolerate;
Control any bleeding
If the barb is imbedded, do not remove it.
Treat the same as a snake bite by applying a pressure immobilisation bandage.
Partially severed limb - Control any bleeding by applying direct pressure. Protect the limb as much as possible from dirt and further damage.
Severed limb - keep the severed part dry, wrapped and cold. If possible, place the part in a dry, sealed plastic bag and then place within another bag filled with cool water. Do not place part in direct contact with water as this will damage the tissue. Do not place the part in direct contact with ice as freezing kills the tissue.
Control bleeding by applying direct pressure.