Treating a coral scrape?
July 25, 2014 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I got tangled up with some elkhorn coral in Belize yesterday and got a couple of scrapes. What do I do now?

It was scrubbed pretty clean with alcohol on the boat, then again with antiseptic soap and dressed. It actually doesn't look very bad, its just a surface scrape, it's scabbed over, though the edges are still bright red. I went to a doctor in Mexico and he said it looks fine, but gave me dicloxicillin 'for prevention'. He emphasized that I don't need it, though.

Should I take the antibiotic now or wait to see if it starts to look bad? I googled and it doesn't seem to be the right kind of antibiotic for a salt water infection.

I'll be back in the us next Sunday. Is this something that I can just kinda watch and keep cleaning until next Sunday? I googled it and read a lot about infections, but I don't know how worried I should be.

I know I should see a doctor but I'm in a part of Mexico where people don't speak English and my Spanish is not good so I'm not sure the doctor understood me well.
posted by empath to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
Response by poster: Also, I'll be in playa del Carmen in a few days, maybe the doctors there might speak English or be more familiar with coral?
posted by empath at 4:01 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

If it were me, based on previous experience, I would wait. I've been scraped up by coral. I washed it well with just soap and water--quite a while later actually--applied some topical antibiotic that night and was fine in a few days. However, it was not a very large scrape and did not itch or anything. I got back in the water, too, the next day. So if it were me, I would hold off on the antibiotics. (Also: I would be worried, hypochondriac that I am, about having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic (I've had them in the past), and *then* being without easily available emergency medical care for a really scary situation.)

But that is my own experience and you know your situation better than I do, so if you're worried, see another doctor sooner rather than later.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 4:10 PM on July 25, 2014

I'd ignore it unless it started hurting or getting worse. Some red around the edges of a scab is normal. Especially if you cleaned it with alcohol, which is super hard on tissue and probably made it much worse, honestly.
posted by fshgrl at 4:12 PM on July 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Keep it clean and dry.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:19 PM on July 25, 2014

I grew up in Hawaii and I don't know how many coral scrapes I got. Basically what everyone has said: keep it clean, keep an eye on it. Some redness is normal around the edge of a scab, especially a new one. If it begins to feel warm and there is redness and swelling (and especially if the redness begins to spread), then doctor and sooner rather than later. None of my scrapes ever got infected, FWIW.
posted by rtha at 5:32 PM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all, I feel better. The tropics are not an ideal vacation spot if you're at all a hypochondriac.
posted by empath at 6:34 PM on July 25, 2014

Agreed with the consensus. Antibiotics aren't benign. If there is any question about whether antibiotics are needed just for prevention in a situation where a doctor has emphasized that they are not necessary, it seems prudent to avoid them. Use them if you need them, when you get an infection.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:57 PM on July 25, 2014

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