Sailing, motor boating and all forms of seafaring are a great privilege that we think all but the easily sea sick should enjoy at some point in their lives. That said, there are innumerable risks associated with taking to the water, and whilst some are expected for anyone in control of any kind of vehicle, there are many dangers that are exclusive to the tides.
In our previous blog post on Seachest we rounded up a collection of comical boating fails, and whilst it's fun to have a laugh about the close misses and minor mishaps, poor safety and irresponsible behaviour in boating can be a fatal cocktail. Even if you are exceedingly careful the unexpected can still befall anyone, so to ensure you're prepared for the worst we present this list of common boat injuries and how to treat them:
Hypothermia is one of the leading causes of death in boat fatalities, and should always be considered a medical emergency. Treating someone who's been exposed to cold water requires a lot of specific knowledge, and its where common sense can fail you most. Do not attempt to rewarm them rapidly with a hot shower, ask them to move around or even rub their skin rapidly - rapid rewarming can cause serious heart problems. What you should do is get them out of cold/wet clothing, cover them with blankets, get them a warm drink (if they're still responsive) and have them lie still. If they've been pulled from the water unconscious, give CPR if you are trained, and in all but mild instances you should always hail a Coast Guard for assistance.
If the sailor is dizzy or disorientated, then they may have a concussion. This can get very bad if not attended, so make sure the injured crew member or passenger lies down and remains still, is kept at the normal body temperature of 37°C, is kept away from any on deck activity that might lead to another blow to the head ('second impact syndrome' can lead to potentially fatal brain injuries) and that professional medical help is called for if symptoms worsen. Whatever you do, don't let them fall asleep as this can also be fatal.
In all cases of bleeding, your priority should be to wrap the wound in sterile dressing and apply as much pressure as needed to stop the bleeding. For any cuts that bleed for more than five minutes even after applying direct pressure, have an object embedded in them or are caused by a crushing injury, you should continue to apply more dressings until you can seek professional medical assistance.
The journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine published a study a few years back that noted that damage to the eyes was one of the most common boat injuries. If someone on board suffers from a penetrating or foreign object to their eye, or hyphemas and orbital blowout fractures, you must avoid attempting to remove any objects or treating it yourself as it can cause further damage. If possible you can at least tape a paper cup or eye shield loosely around the eye for protection, before seeking professional medical assistance.
In a future blog we'll look at the best way to avoid and prevent these kinds of accidents when boating. For now we recommend keeping up to date with all our posts via the Seachest Facebook page, Twitter and Google+.