Usually common when the sea is warmest during the summer, thankfully those found here aren’t deadly. Nonetheless their sting can be painful. Avoid jellyfish by wearing protective clothing, and not swimming where they’ve been spotted. Don’t touch jellyfish lying on the sand; even a dying one can sting. Ideally take a bottle of vinegar to the beach. If stung, squirt the area to neutralise the venom, pat dry, then apply antihistamine cream. Don’t rub with a towel or wash with fresh water – that bursts the poison bubbles. The pain is unpleasant, but if you also notice swelling, breathing problems or any allergic reaction, go to hospital.
Almost all sea snakes are tranquil and will leave you alone unless threatened. If bitten, you might not notice straight away. Minor swelling, aching muscles, sweating and vomiting are symptoms that should have you seeking medical help.
Now and again Dubai's waters experience rip tides – usually when the sea is rough and the surf is up. A rip tide is a strong current that can take a swimmer out to sea. It does not usually pull you under. The key is not to panic and not to swim against the current – it is stronger than you and you will run out of energy to fight it. If you can't put your feet on the floor, then swim parallel to the shore to try and escape the rip tide (these currents are rarely wider than 50 metres). You will still be dragged out to sea, but once you leave the current (think of it as a conveyor belt heading out to sea), you should be able to swim back to shore.
Always pay attention to the flag system on the beach; a red flag means that you should not enter the water, and a yellow flag means swim with caution. Don't assume that a spot that was safe to swim in during the morning will be the same in the afternoon, as tidal differences can change the sea's currents.
Diving and decompression sickness
The UAE has many great dive sites and just as many diving schools where you can learn to dive or, if you're qualified, hire equipment. While diving if generally a safe sport, there is always a risk of decompression sickness (the bends) if a diver stays too deep for too long or ascends too rapidly.
One of the first symptoms is aches and pains in the joints, and following that there may be a skin rash or dizziness and other neurological symptoms. If you notice any of these symptoms after diving, consult a doctor as soon as possible – it is likely that you will need oxygen and possibly a hyperbaric re-compression chamber urgently.
Before you can receive treatment in a re-compression chamber, a qualified diving doctor must sign a consent form – there’s no point just turning up at the chamber. In Dubai you can contact Dr Barbara Karin Vela for diving related questions at Dubai London Clinic and Speciality Hospital on Jumeirah Beach Road in Um Suqeim (800-DLC /800- 352) or for emergencies ONLY: 050 885 8172.
The UAE only has two hyperbaric re-compression chambers for public use – one at Zayed Military Hospital in Abu Dhabi (02 4448 100) and another at Aqua Marine Diving Services in Al Qouz industrial area in Dubai (04 323 3100 or 04 323 3200).
Ed Bowen, General Manger at Aqua Marine Diving services says: "We support the DAN insurance network and we do, and have done, re-compression treatment therapies for divers when recommended by a hyperbaric doctor." See aqua-diving-services.com for more contact details.
Dubai Police also have a re-compression chamber near the airport, though it is primarily for police use.
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