California has nearly 840 miles of coastline for residents to enjoy sailing, swimming, and (of course) surfing. In Newport Beach, surfers don’t have to worry much about coral reefs. In fact, the state’s closest coral reefs are located on the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Still, if you’re willing to do a fair amount of traveling to catch some great waves, you might require wound treatment for reef-related lacerations at some point.
Reef wounds can be extremely serious and require immediate attention. If you don’t treat it right away, you’ll likely need infection care. You may even need to see your doctor about getting stitches if it’s a particularly deep wound. Let’s take a closer look at the proper care methods this type of beach injury and the potential dangers you should know about.
Why are reef wounds such a big deal?
A reef wound can start out as just a little scrape, but it can easily require immediate walk in treatment at your local clinic. That’s because with virtually any reef cut, there’s bound to be bits of coral stuck in the wound. Even tiny pieces of coral can result in pain and infection. In addition, some types of coral are actually toxic. Some surfers have died from reef wound infections that have spread throughout their entire body due to septicemia. Whether or not you think your cut is major, you should head to a nearby clinic for walk in treatment sooner rather than later.
What should I do if I’ve sustained a cut like this?
You should first clean the area with soap and water. If you’re experiencing pain from coral toxins, you may want to flush the area with vinegar. Should you have access to a sterile syringe, you may want to pressure wash the area to remove debris and bits of coral, if possible. However, this is usually the point you should visit your doctor, particularly if the wound is very deep. Your physician will likely advise you use an antibiotic ointment on the wound (that is, if you don’t require stitches) and will probably prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. You may also want to take over-the-counter pain medications to provide additional relief. You should keep an eye out for swelling, redness, or blistering on the wound, as these are signs of potential infection that need to be addressed right away.
Can I surf with my reef cut?
While you may be tempted to tough it out and get right back in the water, doing so will increase your risk of infection. If you don’t want to make another trip to your clinic for walk in treatment, you should wait until your wound is fully healed before getting back up on the board. An especially deep cut might take longer to heal, but waiting is the best way to ensure your safety. However, you should seek additional treatment if your wound doesn’t seem to be healing properly.
Surfing is one of life’s greatest joys, but getting a coral cut can be a real wipe out. It’s vital that you seek out treatment right away; otherwise, you may not be back out in the ocean for a long time to come.