Advice from our Medical Team: How to treat chigger bites, sunburn, minor cuts, and fish hook mishaps

August 29, 2018

Most of us are busy cramming in the last of days of summer – swimming, beach going, camping, or fishing. Unfortunately, along with the fun-packed adventures come some of summer’s stubborn burns and stings.

Texas MedClinic’s Medical Team offers these tips on how to treat common summer ailments and whether a trip to an urgent care center is warranted.

How do you know when a sunburn warrants a trip to a doctor?
Seek medical attention immediately if extreme sunburn blistering is covering a large part of the body.

If significant, blisters will usually appear within several hours of sun exposure.

With minor cuts and abrasions, do you use peroxide to clean wounds?

 No. Use mild soap, like baby wash, and water. If possible, allow the water to run over the wound for at least 5 minutes. Remember the following memory aid: Dilution is the Solution.

Hydrogen peroxide bubbling releases pure oxygen, which kills bacteria, but also the healthy cells.  Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol also dry out the wound, delaying healing.

After cleaning the wound or cut, cover with clean, dry bandage. Keep dry and clean daily. Antibiotic ointment is optional, but it also may delay healing time and is not really necessary.

If you notice any signs of infection like redness, inflammation, pain, red streaks, or pus, visit your local urgent care center.  If you do sustain a cut, take note of your last tetanus shot. As a rule-of-thumb, you should receive a tetanus update IF it has been five or more years since your last tetanus shot.

How do you treat chigger bites?

 Over-the-counter calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream will relieve itching. But these little microscopic spiders can pack a punch, causing the itching and scratching to last for days. If itching becomes unbearable, take an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl or better yet a non-sedating one like Claritin (loratadine). It works just as well.

Persistent scratching can cause infection, which is the time to visit your doctor or urgent care center.

Chiggers live in moist dense grass, fields and forests. They are tiny, red arachnid larvae that feed on the skin. (Yuck!) Your first line of defense if you suspect chiggers is taking a hot shower or bath, scrubbing skin with soap and water. This washes the chiggers from your skin. Wash all clothes, blankets, towels that were in contact with you or on the ground when you came in contact with the chiggers.

What are symptoms of swimmer’s ear, and will it go away on its own or do I need to see a doctor?

Swimmers ear is an outer ear infection caused from water remaining in the ear canal, creating a moist environment for bacteria to grow. Common symptoms include itching, redness inside your ear, some drainage of clear, odorless fluid, and mild to moderate discomfort.

Most of the time, the infection will subside as the ear dries out.  If symptoms are mild, take a few days off from swimming. If you do swim, try not to submerge your ears when in the water. Be sure to drain and dry the ears after each swim.

If you begin to experience a fever or increased levels of swelling and pain, it’s time to head to your doctor or urgent care center.

Should I go to the emergency room or an urgent care center to treat fish hook wounds?

 Although fairly rare, fish hook skin punctures can be daunting.

Depending where on the body the puncture has occurred, and if the hook can be easily removed, you may need to seek medical attention. If the hook can be easily removed, treat the puncture as you would a cut, washing with soap and water and applying antibiotic ointment and bandage. You will need to consider updating your Tetanus shot if it has been more than 5 years since your last update.

If the hook can’t be easily removed, go to an urgent care center. Medical staff at the centers are trained and have the tools to remove fish hooks.

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