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Marine Stings and Scrapes (cont.)

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

Home treatment can help ease your discomfort and prevent other problems.

Jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings

  • Do not rub the tentacles with your hands, a towel, sand, or clothing.
  • Use hot water on the area to help remove the nematocysts, the stinging part of the tentacle. If available, topical lidocaine can be applied to the sting area.
  • If hot water and lidocaine are not available, remove the nematocysts and wash the area with salt water.
  • For some types of jellyfish stings, a compress of household vinegar (5% acetic acid solution) and hot water can be used on the affected area to prevent further stings.
  • Do not use urine, gasoline, kerosene, or turpentine.
  • Rinse eye stings with a saline solution, such as Artificial Tears. Do not put vinegar, alcohol, or any other "stinger solution" in the eyes. The skin around the eye can be dabbed with a cloth soaked in vinegar, but you must be extremely careful not to get any of the solution in the eye.
  • After decontamination, pick off tentacles with a stick or your hand protected by a towel or glove. Be very careful not to rub or press the tentacles.
  • If it is available, apply a lather of shaving cream or soap, or a paste of baking soda, flour, or talc to the skin. The stinging cells will stick to the shaving cream or paste and can then be easily scraped off with a safety razor, a knife edge, or the edge of a credit card.
  • Take an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine, or apply 1% hydrocortisone cream to help control itching. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to. Also, don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
  • Use an ice pack to help relieve pain.
  • Clean any open sores 3 times per day, apply an antiseptic ointment (such as bacitracin), and cover with a light bandage.

Seabather's eruption

  • Do not rub your skin. If larvae are on your skin, rubbing will cause them to sting.
  • Remove your swimsuit as soon as possible. Since larvae can become trapped in the fabric of your suit, it is important to remove a contaminated suit to prevent more stings.
  • If available, rinse in household vinegar (5% acetic acid solution) or rubbing alcohol (40%–70% isopropyl alcohol).
  • Shower with fresh water. Apply soap and vigorously scrub your skin. Do not shower with a contaminated suit on. If larvae are trapped in the fabric of a suit, a freshwater shower will cause the larvae to sting.
  • Take an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine, or apply 1% hydrocortisone cream cream to help control itching. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to. Also, don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
  • Use an ice pack to help relieve pain.
  • Wash the rash with soap and water daily.

Coral scrapes and cuts

Most minor coral scrapes or cuts can be treated at home.

  • Wash the wound for 5 minutes with a soft brush or towel and large amounts of warm water and soap (mild dishwashing soap, such as Ivory, works well). Cleaning the wound as soon as possible may reduce the risk of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from coral material left in the wound.
  • After washing, rinse the wound with a large amount of fresh water.
  • After rinsing with fresh water, rinse the wound again with a solution of one-half hydrogen peroxide and one-half water.
  • After rinsing with a solution of one-half hydrogen peroxide and one-half water, rinse again with fresh water.
  • Stop bleedingClick here to see an illustration. with direct pressure to the wound.
  • Use an antibiotic ointment, such as polymyxin B sulfate (for example, Polysporin) or bacitracin. Put the ointment lightly on the wound. The ointment will keep a bandage from sticking to the wound. Be sure to read the product label about skin sensitivity. If a skin rash or itching under the bandage develops, stop using the ointment. The rash may mean you had an allergic reaction to the ointment. Antibiotic ointments that contain neomycin may have an increased risk of causing an allergic reaction.
  • Consider bandaging the wound. You may need to protect your wound from getting dirty or irritated. If available, use a nonstick dressing. Be sure to read the product label for correct use.
    • Clean the wound thoroughly before bandaging it to reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage.
    • Apply a clean bandage when it gets wet or soiled to further help prevent infection.
    • If a bandage is stuck to a scab, soak it in warm water to soften the scab and make the bandage easier to remove.
  • Watch for symptoms of a skin infection.
  • Be patient. Coral scrapes and cuts may take weeks and sometimes even months to heal completely.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • The lips, tongue, or throat become swollen, or other severe symptoms develop.
  • Symptoms of a skin infection develop.
  • A rash develops.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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