By Tom Neale, 1/12/2005
1. Everybody knows that sometimes soaking an infected area in warm salt water helps. But soaking a wound in salty water from the sea may cause many very serious additional problems.
2. We actually had a nurse in the BVI tell us once to soak an open infected wound in sea water. Some don’t realize that this is not a good thing to do.
3. Sea water has many things in it that you don’t want working on your wound.
4. If you get a laceration or cut, try to keep sea water out. This includes tropical sea water. If you need to soak in salt water, use fresh clean water that you’ve boiled and let cool down and to which you’ve added table salt.
5. What if you’ve got a cut and you have to jump into the sea for a few minutes?
I’ve used Polysporin and Neosporin in the past to cover cuts under bandages when I’ve had to briefly jump in and wanted to try to keep the sea water out. Some have an allergy to these and other medicines and shouldn’t use them. They may or may not be good for you. As with anything, be sure you’re not allergic to it. Find out first. Other possibilities, according to one doc to whom I talked, include smearing clean Vaseline over the wound and possibly, in some circumstances, the spray-on “liquid bandage” material claimed to be “waterproof” such as that sold by 3M under the name of Nexcare™. But none of this is fool proof and, as I understand it, these products aren’t really intended to absolutely waterproof and protect an open wound when you go into the sea. The best course is to stay out of the water until the wound has healed. Before you go on a cruise, ask your doctor what you should take along for this purpose.
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Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale