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Diving & Sea Bathing with Care

Let your holiday remain just that.   2011-07-17

Diving can be an extremely enjoyable activity, especially in  areas of great natural beauty. A responsible attitude and proper training are essential if one is to dive safely. Part of the training is to know about the risks and how to avoid them. The MyHealthPortal team has consulted its experts and brings you some advice on the art of safe diving.

·   Use the correct equipment which must have been checked to ensure that it is in good working order.

·   Water does not protect the skin from the sun's USV rays and as such, divers are at risk of sun burn. Use a high SPF waterproof sunscreen all over your body. Wear a swimsuit made from special fabrics with their own UV protection factor, which offers divers better protection from UV radiation than the average sunscreen.

·   It is important that you receive training to a recognized standard before attempting to dive. The most widely recognised is the PADI certificate, NAUI or the British Sub-Aqua Club Sports Diver certificate. Avoid dive centres that do not offer these qualifications. Lack of adequate training or supervision can lead to a potentially fatal air embolism whilst ascending from a depth of as little as 3 metres.

·   If you will be flying soon after diving you may suffer from decompression sickness. You might have to wait from between 12 to 24 hours before going on a flight. The British Institute of Naval Medicine has a 24 hour helpline for divers.

·   Gloves should be worn whilst diving as this provides protection if anything needs to be collected from beneath the sea. It should be also kept in mind that some sea creatures can be dangerous. Certain attractive cone shells from the tropics for example, have a venomous harpoon with enough poison to kill an adult.

·   Coral is very attractive but can be also highly abrasive. The scratches obtained from coral can be sore and uncomfortable for weeks. Wash abrasions thoroughly, remove any coral, sand or debris and apply an antiseptic. Do not continue to sea-bathe after sustaining any abrasions as it will make it worse.

·   Wear shoes on the beach and when swimming to avoid injuring your feet.

·   Take local advice about where it is safe to dive and swim as there may be rip tides, estuarine crocodiles or the risk of shark attack in certain parts of the world.

·   Avoid alcohol or recreational drugs before going into the sea as intoxication can lead to drowning.

·   To avoid shark attacks do not wear shiny jewelry, do not swim at dusk as this is the time sharks hunt, avoid splashing about especially if sharks are circling, don’t swim while bleeding and avoid murky waters.

·   Swimmers in the tropical seas sometimes notice stinging sensations. This is known as stinging sea. This affects everyone in a similar way and immediately. This is probably due to stinging seaweed, jellyfish larvae or segments of jellyfish that come into the beach with the onshore winds and mixed with weed debris.

·   A few hours after bathing in tropical seas, swimmers may notice a rash on the areas that have been covered with a bathing suit, where the skin has been rubbed around the armpit area, the back of knees, and where skin has been in contact with the board in the case of surfers. This is called "sea lice". It is usually caused by stings from larvae of the thimble jellyfish. All bathing suits should be removed and have a shower preferably in salt water first after swimming. Showering with a swim suit on will aggravate this. It is advisable to either throw away the swim suit or machine wash it with a detergent and tumble dry it.

·   Red tides occur at unpredictable times in warm seas anywhere in the tropics and turns the ocean red. In a red tide there are abnormal accumulations of organisms that produce toxins that are released into the sea and sometimes in the air due to the action of the surf. These toxins can cause a cough, slight irritation of the airways, a runny nose, sneezing and sore eyes. Asthmatics tend to wheeze. One should stay away from the red surf and avoid swimming near a red tide as there is no other treatment for this.

·   Spending a lot of time in the sea can predispose people to an infection of the ear canal, also known as swimmers ear. Aluminium acetate (as 8% drops) will help prevent reoccurrences. If ears become sore and swollen medical advice needs to be obtained from a doctor or pharmacy as ear drops containing both an antibiotic and steroid will need to be obtained.