Marine Stings and Scrapes in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

There are many kinds of stings, scrapes, and cuts you can get from being in the ocean.

Jellyfish stings leave raised, red marks called welts. The welts may last for 1 to 2 weeks. You may also get an itchy skin rash. This can appear 1 to 4 weeks after the sting.

Portuguese man-of-war stings make a red line with small white sores. In severe cases, they cause blisters and welts. These can look like a string of beads.

Seabather's eruption is a type of rash. You can get it after a sting by a jellyfish or sea anemone larvae. It can be itchy and annoying. But it usually goes away without treatment in 10 to 14 days.

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

There are different things you can do to care for yourself at home. You may need to wash the sting or scrape. Or you may need to change a bandage. Your doctor may give you medicine to take. Or you may get medicine 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?

Pain medicine for any bite or sting

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • 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.

Jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings

  • To help with itching, take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin). Or you can apply hydrocortisone cream. 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 area 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.

Seabather's eruption

  • To help with itching, take an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin). Or you can apply hydrocortisone cream. 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.
  • Wash the rash with soap and water daily.

Coral scrapes and cuts

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash the area 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.

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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