Lifesavers: Chris Gauntlett, left, and Weldon Wade administer emergency oxygen first aid to an 'injured diver'. *Photo by Ondrej Hindl
Lifesavers: Chris Gauntlett, left, and Weldon Wade administer emergency oxygen first aid to an 'injured diver'. *Photo by Ondrej Hindl

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 27: Did you know that dousing Portuguese Man O’ War stings with vinegar is the worst thing you can do?

Although this is the preferred first aid for most jellyfish stings it will only increase the pain from any unfortunate encounters with Bermuda’s seasonal marine visitor.

Instead of neutralizing any unfired stinging cells (nematocysts) on the skin, vinegar will only serve to fire off more of them. Instead it is best to soak Portuguese Man O' War stings with hot water.

This was one of the important first aid techniques learned on a series of recent courses aimed at creating a safer diving community in Bermuda.

Blue Water Divers organized the Divers Alert Network (DAN) qualifications in partnership with DAN instructor Daniel Gericke, Hyberbaric Safety Officer at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH).

Four courses took place, each attended by up to eight students. They included accountants, hotel concierges, archaeologists, IT staff and journalists, all of whom were qualified recreational divers.

The DAN courses were: Oxygen First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries; Advanced Oxygen First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries; First Aid for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries (eg: jellyfish stings, bites); and On-Site Neurological Assessment for Divers.

Ondrej Hindl, of Blue Water Divers, said administering oxygen first aid to an injured diver could reduce the effects of DCI (decompression illness) and help to save lives.

“As a recreational diver, you can receive training to provide vital first aid that can make a difference to a scuba diver with decompression illness,”  he said.

Although serious hazardous marine life injuries were rare in Bermuda, Portuguese Man O’ War, lionfish and fire coral could all cause severe pain and discomfort.

“The First Aid for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries course teaches divers to minimize these injuries and reduce diver discomfort and pain,” said Mr Hindl.

The KEMH Hyperbaric Chamber is affiliated with DAN, the divers’ safety organization which provides education and medical assistance to divers around the world.

“Our chamber is on 24/7 standby to help any diver who may develop decompression sickness,” said Mr Gericke.

“As part of our commitment to promote dive safety within the diving community, I have been working with dive schools; teaching divers the skills to help a buddy in need.

“The buddy system in diving is the cornerstone of diving safety. Divers are a special breed of people who look out for each other.

“Oxygen is the drug of choice in the treatment of diving-related illnesses. My goal is to have all divers know the importance of oxygen in the treatment of a injured diver. Training is needed to do this safely.

“Bermuda's dive operators are very safety-conscious and know the importance of oxygen in diving first aid. This can only bode well for our visitors knowing they are in good hands when they come and dive in our waters.”