Marine Stings and Scrapes: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Jellyfish stings make raised, red welts that develop along the site of the sting. The welts may last for 1 to 2 weeks, and itchy skin rashes may appear 1 to 4 weeks after the sting.

Portuguese man-of-war stings result in a red line with small white sores. In severe cases, blisters and welts that look like a string of beads may appear.

Seabather's eruption is a rash that develops from the stings of jellyfish or sea anemone larvae. The rash can be itchy and annoying. It usually goes away without medical treatment in 10 to 14 days.

Coral scrapes and cuts may take weeks and sometimes even months to heal completely.

Your home treatment depends on what type of sting or scrape you have and how severe it is. You may need to wash the sting or scrape or change a bandage. Your doctor may give you medicine to take or to put on the affected area.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings

  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl or Claritin, or apply hydrocortisone cream to help control itching. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. This may help relieve pain.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for the sting, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the sting with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the area with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

Seabather's eruption

  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl or Claritin, or apply hydrocortisone cream to help control itching. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. This may help relieve pain.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Wash the rash with soap and water daily.

Coral scrapes and cuts

  • If your doctor told you how to care for the wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the wound with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the area with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Your tongue or throat is swelling.
  • You have breathing problems or wheezing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the area.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • The sting or scrape starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if the rash, sting, or scrape is not getting better each day.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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