Emergency Descriptions & Medical Codes Used In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, La Jolla, California.

When swimmers are rescued by lifeguards or there are other incidents on the shore or off the coast, lifeguards, paramedics and first responders use different kinds of information with trained medical personnel. Along the beaches of America, the following codes are occasionally used:

Code 1 Handle call at your convenience; acknowledge
Code 2 Urgent, handle call immediately; no light or siren
Code 3 Emergency, handle call immediately; use lights and siren
Code 4 No further assistance needed
901 Ambulance call
902 Accident
905D Dead animal
905I Injured animal
905S Stray animal
907N Paramedics requested 
907Y Paramedics needed 
NFD No further description (or “no further”)
NFI No further information (or “no further”)
After some of these accidents and rescues, the individuals are taken to the hospital for treatment. If the victim encountered a shark, the injuries can be defined as W56.41XA (bitten by shark, initial encounter) or W56.41XD (bitten by shark, subsequent encounter), or if they encounter jellyfish, the codes can include T63.621A (toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, accidental, initial encounter), T63.621D (Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, accidental, subsequent encounter) or T63.621S (toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, accidental unintentional sequela). These codes are part of an international medical coding system that classifies different ways in which individuals get injured or sick.

Medical codes include bites from not only sharks, but also orcas, dolphins, sea lions, fish or other marine animals. The codes even distinguish between the first bite and the second and subsequent encounters. These codes are used worldwide so they are relatively standardized no matter if a swimmer gets bitten in New York or New Caledonia, Tokyo or Tenerife. The cumulative data on marine creature encounters would be fascinating to compile on a worldwide basis and make it easier for medical professionals to analyze the quality of care and the results of particular treatments.

Classifying and quantifying medical data has been compiled at least since the 17th century and has been undergoing continuous improvement. But open water swimmers and triathletes can now know the following specific medical codes in case of an injury or encounter:

W56.01XA Bitten by dolphin, initial encounter
W56.01XD Bitten by dolphin, subsequent encounter
W56.01XS Bitten by dolphin, sequela
W56.02XA Struck by dolphin, initial encounter
W56.02XD Struck by dolphin, subsequent encounter
W56.02XS Struck by dolphin, sequela
W56.09XA Other contact with dolphin, initial encounter
W56.09XD Other contact with dolphin, subsequent encounter
W56.09XS Other contact with dolphin, sequela
W56.11XA Bitten by sea lion, initial encounter
W56.11XD Bitten by sea lion, subsequent encounter
W56.11XS Bitten by sea lion, sequela
W56.12XA Struck by sea lion, initial encounter
W56.12XD Struck by sea lion, subsequent encounter
W56.12XS Struck by sea lion, sequela
W56.19XA Other contact with sea lion, initial encounter
W56.19XD Other contact with sea lion, subsequent encounter
W56.19XS Other contact with sea lion, sequela
W56.21XA Bitten by orca, initial encounter
W56.21XD Bitten by orca, subsequent encounter
W56.21XS Bitten by orca, sequela
W56.22XA Struck by orca, initial encounter
W56.22XD Struck by orca, subsequent encounter
W56.22XS Struck by orca, sequela
W56.29XA Other contact with orca, initial encounter
W56.29XD Other contact with orca, subsequent encounter
W56.29XS Other contact with orca, sequela
W56.31XA Bitten by other marine mammals, initial encounter
W56.31XD Bitten by other marine mammals, subsequent encounter
W56.31XS Bitten by other marine mammals, sequela
W56.32XA Struck by other marine mammals, initial encounter
W56.32XD Struck by other marine mammals, subsequent encounter
W56.32XS Struck by other marine mammals, sequela
W56.39XA Other contact with other marine mammals, initial encounter
W56.39XD Other contact with other marine mammals, subsequent encounter
W56.39XS Other contact with other marine mammals, sequela
W56.41XA Bitten by shark, initial encounter
W56.41XD Bitten by shark, subsequent encounter
W56.41XS Bitten by shark, sequela
W56.42XA Struck by shark, initial encounter
W56.42XD Struck by shark, subsequent encounter
W56.42XS Struck by shark, sequela
W56.49XA Other contact with shark, initial encounter
W56.49XD Other contact with shark, subsequent encounter
W56.49XS Other contact with shark, sequela
W56.51XA Bitten by other fish, initial encounter
W56.51XD Bitten by other fish, subsequent encounter
W56.51XS Bitten by other fish, sequela
W56.52XA Struck by other fish, initial encounter
W56.52XD Struck by other fish, subsequent encounter
W56.52XS Struck by other fish, sequela
W56.59XA Other contact with other fish, initial encounter
W56.59XD Other contact with other fish, subsequent encounter
W56.59XS Other contact with other fish, sequela
W56.81XA Bitten by other nonvenomous marine animals, initial encounter
W56.81XD Bitten by other nonvenomous marine animals, subsequent encounter
W56.81XS Bitten by other nonvenomous marine animals, sequela
W56.82XA Struck by other nonvenomous marine animals, initial encounter
W56.82XD Struck by other nonvenomous marine animals, subsequent encounter
W56.82XS Struck by other nonvenomous marine animals, sequela
W56.89XA Other contact with other nonvenomous marine animals, initial encounter
W56.89XD Other contact with other nonvenomous marine animals, subsequent encounter
W56.89XS Other contact with other nonvenomous marine animals, sequela
T63.621A Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, accidental (unintentional), initial encounter
T63.621D Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, accidental (unintentional), subsequent encounter
T63.621S Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, accidental (unintentional), sequela
T63.622A Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, intentional self-harm, initial encounter
T63.622D Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, intentional self-harm, subsequent encounter
T63.622S Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, intentional self-harm, sequela
T63.623A Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, assault, initial encounter
T63.623D Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, assault, subsequent encounter
T63.623S Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, assault, sequela
T63.624A Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, undetermined, initial encounter
T63.624D Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, undetermined, subsequent encounter
T63.624S Toxic effect of contact with other jellyfish, undetermined, sequela

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