How To Care For Reef Cuts


While some people might see reef cuts as a badge of honor, it is dangerous! For some, it might appear just like a simple wound, but it can be serious. It can ruin a good vacation. At its worst, it can even lead to death!

Regardless if you have the best surfboards or if you have mastered the basic rules of surfing, coral cuts are inevitable. They can happen even to experienced surfers. So, you need to know what to do when confronted with the situation.

Read on and we’ll let you know some of the best ways to take care of your reef cuts. The most important is to treat it as soon as possible to avoid serious infections.

Why You Should Care

Never assume that it is just a simple cut. Regardless of how small it is, as long as there is a scratch from getting in contact with corals, you should act as soon a possible. The deeper the cut, the more concerned you should be.

Yes, corals are beautiful from the outside. If you see them up close when you are diving, you will be amazed by their beautiful colors and shapes. However, it can be dangerous. They are dirty. On the surface, they have spores and bacteria. It doesn’t help that they are brittle, either.

When they get in contact with the skin, bits of the coral can get stuck. The soft covering can be deposited into an open wound. This will make the healing time longer compared to just suffering from a minor scrape.

You can suffer from coral poisoning. The corals have bacteria and polyps, among others, that are invisible to the naked eye. They can spread infection quickly. This becomes worse when the abrasions are deep.

Prevention is Better than Cure

Before we discuss the basics of caring for reef cuts, let us talk about how it can be avoided in the first place. The best thing that you can do is to execute preventive measures so that you won’t end up with a dangerous cut.

If you are surfing in an area with a reef, you should do your best to prevent a wipeout. Be aware of the surf environment, which will be vital in surviving a wipeout. For beginners, it will be best to avoid areas with corals. Before you start surfing, you should already have a solid plan of how to get in and out, trying as much as possible to avoid the areas with reefs.

It will also help to dress the right way. Wearing the best surfing wetsuits or rash guards can help to minimize the likelihood of lacerations. It will add a protective barrier so that the cut won’t be directly inflicted on the skin.

You need to learn the basics of choosing the right surf spot to avoid those with reefs in shallow waters that can cause cuts and abrasions.

Taking Care of Reef Cuts


You do not need to be a medical expert to learn the basics of taking care of coral cuts. It is easy and straightforward, which can be done by following the easy steps that are mentioned below.

  1. Clean the Cut

The first and most important is to immediately get out of the water after getting a cut. Do not attempt to continue surfing or swimming as this can make the cut worse and will make it prone to infection.

Invest in the best first aid kits so that you will have the basics needed to clean the wound. Get rid of stuck foreign objects. Use sterile tweezers to have them removed. This can be quite intimidating, so you might want to ask for a helping hand if you are feeling nervous to do it on your own.

Once you have removed the coral remains or any foreign object now is the time to have it cleaned. Do not rinse it with seawater as the latter can be filled with microorganisms that can cause infection. Using white vinegar to wash the wound will also work, which will be effective in neutralizing the toxins.

Diluted hydrogen peroxide can do the same thing. Use a combination of 50% water and 50% hydrogen peroxide. This will create a bubbling reaction and can easily freak some people. The bubbles are normal, and they will act to kill the bacteria or the spores from the corals.

A word of warning – it will hurt. The latter is especially the case if you use alcohol in cleaning the wound. The stinging sensation can be painful, so be prepared for it!

  1. Rub it with an Antibiotic Ointment

Use an antibiotic ointment and rub the cut directly. Do not forget the smaller ones. This might seem small, but they can pose a danger, so you also have to pay attention to their treatment.

  1. Dress the Wound

Now that you are done with cleaning the wound, the next step is to dress it. Your first-aid beach essentials should include items that can be used for dressing coral cuts. You should wrap it in a non-adhering bandage, which will avoid sticking to the wound to lessen the chance of making the cut worse.

Covering the wound is important to protect it from foreign elements that can worsen the infection. Especially if the cuts are on the feet or legs, having a cover is necessary since they are exposed to the dirty ground.

  1. Take Meds

Taking pain relief medication will help if it stings or if it aches. You might also be required to take antibiotics. However, the latter should only be done after consultation and prescription from a medical professional. Follow the advice of the doctor when it comes to the duration of taking the antibiotics and make sure to finish the course.

  1. Clean it Daily

As a part of a routine and follow-up care for reef cuts, make sure that it is cleaned at least once a day. When cleaning the wound, avoid using lime as it can infect the wound. Do not use any cleaning products that you are not familiar with.

Apply an antibiotic ointment after cleaning it daily to speed up healing. Aside from an ointment, you will also benefit from using an antibiotic powder. Apply it directly on the reef cuts three to four times a day.

  1. Pay Attention to Infection

Treating coral cuts once is never enough. It is a long-term process until the wound has fully healed. While you are waiting for it to get better, be attentive. Pay attention to signs that could be indicative of serious infections.

Aside from the visual cues that the reef cuts are getting worse, you might also feel sick. Fevers and night sweats are not uncommon. You might also end up feeling unusually tired even if you have not been involved in any exhausting activity. It is also possible that you will have reduced appetite and experience severe pain. If these things happen, see a doctor.

When to Seek Medical Attention

The good news is that a trip to the doctor is not necessary in all cases of reef cuts. Nonetheless, better be safe than sorry, right? So, if you want to be sure and if you have the time, there is no harm in consulting with a medical professional.

If you have already executed first aid treatment, you can give it a few days to heal and observe how it is developing. If it is getting larger or deeper, see a doctor. The latter is also the case if there is pus developing or when it starts to leak. Redness and blistering can also be serious

In most instances, the cuts will be nothing serious. But it is better to err on the side of caution. Tendons, nerves, and arteries can be damaged beyond the superficial wounds. If that is the case, then there is no substitute for seeing a doctor.

When to Go Back Surfing

After getting coral cuts, you might initially think that it is not dangerous. The next thing that you might want to do is to get back on the board and surf another wave. To be safe, it would be best to stop surfing immediately after suffering from a cut. Wait until the wound is fully healed. Otherwise, you are at risk of infection, especially if the cut is deep.

If you are on a surf holiday and you do not want to ruin your trip, you can go back to surfing. However, you should clean and treat the wound daily. Better yet, ask a doctor if it is safe to go back to the water and make sure to follow the medical professional’s advice religiously.

Globo Surfer Overview

Reef cuts are dangerous. Even small scrapes need immediate attention. If it is deep and large, seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent the possibility of infection.

Now that you know how to take care of reef cuts, make sure that you learn as well how to treat a surfer’s eye and how to prevent surf injuries, which will help you to be prepared and knowledgeable!

More Surf Reviews:


  1. How to Properly Clean and Dress a Reef Cut, Surfline
  2. Reef Cuts, Get Well Soon
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!