As scuba divers, we all love the time we get to spend underwater discovering new and interesting marine life. While non-divers might shudder at the thought of seeing a shark, divers often plan entire holidays around diving with sharks. Less exciting under the water are the things that actually injure us - mostly things that sting! Read on for a list of marine creatures to be cautious around and how to prevent getting stung.
Perhaps the most well-known stingers in the sea, Jellyfish come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some are visible and easily avoided, while others are tiny, translucent, and can sting us before we even notice their presence. Some jellyfish don't even sting at all, like those found in jellyfish lakes. However, like the variety of species, jellyfish stings range in severity from mild itching to intense pain and difficulty breathing.
To avoid getting stung by jellyfish, it is important to wear protective clothing such as rash guards, boots, and hoods (if not already wearing thermal protection). Try to maneuver yourself away from jellyfish and if you get stung, rinse the area with saltwater, carefully remove any tentacles with tweezers or a credit card, and apply vinegar to neutralize the sting.
Even novice divers have heard of fire coral, but this innocuous looking coral can be dismissed or difficult to avoid. It can even float in the water column, making contact with skin even when a diver is being cautious. Stings from fire coral cause pain, itching, and redness/swelling.
Prevent fire coral stings by avoiding contact with any marine organisms, no matter how innocent they may appear. Wear protective layers and in the event of a fire coral sting, rinse with seawater and use vinegar (or a combination of vinegar and baking soda) to calm the burn.
More problematic for snorkelers and those wading into shallow waters with unprotected feet, sea urchins have sharp spines that can cause painful puncture wounds, leaving bits of spine beneath the skin.
Avoid sea urchins by being aware of your surroundings and what is under the water. Wear protective shoes and if a sea urchin punctures the skin, soak the affected area in hot water for 30-60 minutes. The nature of the spines make them difficult to remove, so some techniques include breaking them up under the skin or letting time do the work.
There are plenty of other stinging fish and organisms underwater, including lionfish, scorpion fish, anemones, and more! Fortunately, most ocean stingers are not a serious threat if we make sure to avoid touching things and employ environmental awareness. We can continue to explore and enjoy the best dive sites in the world while being responsible divers.