Wilderness: Coral Cuts (cont.)
Coral Cuts Treatment
- Scrub with soap and water and then flush with fresh water as soon as
possible after contact with the coral.
- If the wound stings, rinse it with
acetic acid (vinegar) or isopropyl alcohol
(this action may reduce the effect of any irritating toxins such as those
produced by fire coral).
- Flush the wound or abrasion
with a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide to remove coral dust and then flush with fresh water
for most non-stinging coral cuts or abrasions.
- Rinse daily and apply an antibiotic such as
bacitracin (Baci-IM) or similar topical ointment 3-4 times per day.
- Oral antibiotics are usually recommended to prevent infection. If
an infection develops, continue taking the antibiotic for at least five days after all signs of
the infection has resolved. Notify the doctor of any
medication allergies the
patient has prior to starting an antibiotic. Some antibiotics (for example, tetracyclines) can cause increased sensitivity to the sun (photosensitivity),
thus it is recommended to use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 if the area is
going to be exposed to sunlight. If a wound develops pus, seek medical
- If no evidence of infection or
open wound is present, an over-the-counter steroid ointment may be used to relieve itching
for a short period of time (a few days).
- Pain may be relieved with one to two
(Tylenol) every four hours and/or one to two ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) every 6-8 hours.
Do not exceed 3 grams of acetaminophen over a 24 hour time period. Some
health care professionals prefer to use naproxen (Aleve) for pain
- Patients that are alcoholics have a tendency to develop bacterial infections by
Vibrio spp that can be very aggressive and dangerous (life-threatening) in a short time-span. Any
redness of skin that progresses rapidly with blisters moving up an extremity
(arms or legs) toward the body should be considered a medical emergency, and will require IV antibiotics.
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM