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Recognise signs of a medical emergency

You are at sea. Water everywhere and not a doctor in sight. There is a sudden medical crisis – someone has fallen worryingly ill. What you going to do? First, you have to identify the problem.

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Urgent medical treatment may be required for a number of conditions. Signs and symptoms may manifest when a guest or crew member is far from a source of medical knowledge and expertise.  Here are the four most urgent conditions that will need to be considered as life-threatening and a checklist for each condition.

Appendicitis

Although this condition can happen at any age it is prevalent between the ages of 10 to 30

  • Are there symptoms of pain or tenderness in the naval area moving towards the lower right of the abdomen over several hours?
  • Is the pain sharp and severe and worsens with movement?
  • Accompanying fever may be a sign of inflammation or infection.
  • Nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite are co-symptoms
  • Did the patient take any pain killers that might be masking the symptoms of appendicitis?

Heart Attack

  • Is the patient experiencing crushing pain or squeezing in the center of the chest of duration for more than a few minutes?
  • Is the pain spreading to the jaw, neck, shoulders, back of the arm, in particular, the left arm?
  • Is the patient experiencing nausea, palpitations and sweating, shortness of breath together with chest pain?
  • Is the patient over 50 and suffering persistent indigestion or heartburn that is not responsive to over the counter medication?

Anaphylactic shock

  • Has there been exposure in the previous two hours to a common allergen, such as insect sting, nuts, peanuts, seeds, eggs or shellfish? Allergies may exist even if no problems have been previously experienced.
  • Does the patient experience tingling in the mouth and/or throbbing ears?
  • Is the patient agitated or stressed?
  • Is there flushing of the skin or itchiness? Or hives on the skin or swellings of the eyes, lips or tongue?
  • Is the patient sneezing or showing respiratory problems such as wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath?
  • Is the patient vomiting, suffering abdominal cramps or diarrhea?

Stroke

  • Does the patient experience numbness or weakness on side of the body – one arm, leg or side of the face?
  • Is the patient having speech problems?
  • Is there a sudden onset of vision problems, such as double vision or loss of vision in one eye?
  • Other symptoms include sudden onset of severe headache, dizziness, loss of coordination and balance, or falling with no apparent cause. In extreme circumstances, there may be frothing of the mouth.

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The Skipper’s Medical Emergency Handbook

Available as an epub book, this manual is designed to assist all who go to sea – whether on a day excursion, a holiday cruise or an even longer trip. It will provide practical advice, boost confidence, solve problems and minimize danger for all on board.

Step-by-step instructions, explanatory illustrations and flow charts provide an at-a-glance reference on how to prevent, treat and care for the sick and injured at sea. And there is advice on pre-voyage preparations, establishing emergency procedures, first response and assessment of illnesses and injury, right through to offshore aftercare and recovery.

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