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Comprehensive Guide to Managing Medical Emergencies Onboard for Seafarers

Recognizing, Responding to, and Managing Critical Health Situations at Sea

Basic First Aid Knowledge:

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation):

Check the Area:Ensure the area is safe for both you and the victim.

1.Assess the Victim:

Check the victim for responsiveness. Shake or shout at the victim.

2.Call for Help:If alone, call for help or send someone to do so.

3.Assess Breathing and Pulse:Check the victim’s breathing and pulse. If absent, begin CPR.

4.Position the Victim:Lay the victim on their back on a firm surface.

5.Perform Chest Compressions:

a. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim’s chest. Place the other hand on top, interlocking fingers.

b. Press down hard and fast – compress the chest at least 2 inches deep and at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.

6.Give Rescue Breaths:

  • Open the victim’s airway by tilting their head backward and lifting the chin.

  • Pinch the nose shut and cover the victim’s mouth with yours, creating an airtight seal.

  • Give 2 rescue breaths (each should take about 1 second and make the chest visibly rise).

7.Continue CPR:Continue CPR with a cycle of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths until professional help arrives or the victim shows signs of life.

Wound Care

1.Wash Hands:If possible, wash your hands and wear gloves.

2.Apply Pressure: Apply firm pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or your hands to stop bleeding.

3.Clean the Wound:Rinse the wound with clean, warm water.

4.Apply Dressing:Apply a clean dressing or bandage to the wound.

5.Secure Dressing:Secure the dressing with adhesive tape or bandage.

6.Seek Further Medical Help:If the wound is serious or you’re unable to clean it effectively, seek further medical assistance

Burn Treatment:

1.Cool the Burn:Run cool (not cold) water over the burn or apply a cool, wet cloth.

2.Cover the Burn:Cover the burn with a non-stick, sterile bandage.

3.Provide Pain Relief:Offer over-the-counter pain relievers if available and not contraindicated.

4.Avoid Breaking Blisters:Do not break any blisters that form.

5.Seek Medical Attention:For serious burns, seek immediate medical attention

Advanced Medical Knowledge:

Advanced Life Support:

For using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs):

1.Turn On the AED:Follow the voice and/or visual prompts.

2.Attach the Pads:Attach the electrode pads to the victim’s bare chest as illustrated on the pads.

3.Clear the Victim:Ensure no one is touching the victim, then press the AED’s “shock” button if instructed

Handling Specific Emergencies:

Broken Bones:

1.Immobilize the injured area using a splint or similar support.

2.Apply cold to reduce swelling.

3.Elevate the injured area.

4.Provide pain relief if available and not contraindicated.

5.Seek further medical help.


1.Move the victim to a warmer place.

2.Remove wet clothing.

3.Warm the victim with blankets or other coverings.

4.Give warm, non-alcoholic beverages if the victim is conscious.


1.Move the victim to a cooler place.

2.Cool the victim with damp cloths or a cold bath.

3.Offer sips of water if the victim is conscious.

Medication Administration: Know how and when to administer essential medications, such as epinephrine for allergic reactions.

1.Recognize Symptoms of Anaphylaxis:

Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

    • Swelling of the face, lips, or throat.

    • Rapid or weak pulse.

    • Skin rash, hives, or itching.

    • Confusion or altered consciousness.

    • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

2.Before Administering Epinephrine:

Confirm the Allergy and Symptoms:Ensure the symptoms match those of anaphylaxis and the patient has a known allergy.

3.Contact Medical Help:If possible, contact medical professionals for assistance and guidance.

Administering Epinephrine with an Auto-Injector (e.g., EpiPen®):

1.Obtain the Auto-Injector:Locate the ship’s medical kit and obtain the epinephrine auto-injector.

2.Check the Expiration Date:Ensure the medication has not expired.

3.Remove Safety Cap:Take off the safety cap from the auto-injector.

4.Position the Injector:Hold the auto-injector in your fist with the tip facing downward.Position it against the outer thigh of the patient, at a right angle to the leg.

5.Administer the Injection:Press the auto-injector firmly against the thigh to release the needle and administer the dose.Hold the auto-injector in place for about 10 seconds to ensure the full dose is delivered.

6.Note the Time of Administration:Keep track of when the medication was administered.

  1. Follow Up Care:

    • Monitor the patient’s symptoms and vital signs.

    • Perform CPR if the patient stops breathing or loses pulse.

    • Contact medical professionals for further instructions.

    • If symptoms do not improve, or worsen, and a second auto-injector is available, administer a second dose after 5 to 15 minutes

Medical Emergency Planning:

Emergency Contact Information:Ensure access to up-to-date emergency contact information for relevant medical professionals and organizations.

Telemedical Assistance:Many ships have access to telemedical assistance services, which can provide remote guidance for managing medical emergencies.

Medical Supplies:

Fully Stocked Medical Kit:Ensure the ship has a well-stocked and organized medical kit with necessary supplies and medications.

Proper Equipment:Ensure access to essential medical equipment such as AEDs, splints, and bandages.

Continuous Training and Drills:

Regular Medical Emergency Drills:Conduct regular drills to ensure all crew members know their roles in a medical emergency.

Continuous Learning:Encourage continuous learning and staying up-to-date with the latest medical emergency response guidelines.


Clear Communication:Ensure clear and effective communication among the crew during a medical emergency.

Language Commonality:Ensure key terms and instructions are understood by all crew members, possibly by using a commonly spoken language.


  1. Record Keeping:

    • Document all medical treatments and communications for future reference and analysis.


In conclusion, preparation for medical emergencies at sea involves a combination of training, planning, and proper supply and equipment management. Continuous training and regular drills can help ensure that all crew members know how to respond effectively to a range of medical emergencies, potentially saving lives and preventing further harm.


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