Reef Rash & Coral Cuts

Low Tide on Coral Beach in Pakarang

Written by Modell Bleu

Content Creator at Author of Roadkill Diary. Chef/Owner of the World Famous Rusty Pelican. Expat in SE Asia since 2004, currently living in Thailand.
If you dive, surf or even just wade in tidal pools there is a risk of cutting yourself on the sharp coral. In surfing and diving circles they call this reef rash and it is very painful and can leave lasting scars if not treated promptly and properly. Since the severity of your injury depends on the activity we will focus on minor cuts and abrasions sustained when coming into contact with hard coral.

First and foremost is to clean your wound. Any dead skin should be cut away. Again depending on how badly you are damaged this might require an anesthetic and trip to the hospital. The wound will then have to be scrubbed with soap and rinsed with fresh water. This step should be repeated a few times.

To reduce the itching that comes with reef rash, you should then flush the wound with white vinegar or Isopropyl alcohol. Flush the wound or abrasion again with a mixture of 1/2 fresh water and 1/2 hydrogen peroxide. This will help remove coral dust and other contaminants that cause itching and stinging.

Apply an antibiotic ointment such as bacitracin to help prevent infection. You will have to rinse the wound with fresh water and reapply the ointment 3-4 times a day.

Reef Rash on Leg
For a more severe injury or if signs of infection occur, it is suggested that you see a doctor.

Symptoms of infection are continued itching, swelling, blistering, inflammation or ulcers. Red streaks moving up an extremity with blistering and pustular draining should be a sign that a visit to the doctor is necessary.

If after a few days your symptoms have not subsided it is suggested that you seek medical attention.

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