Bites, Sting and Ocean Things

One of the best parts of living in the Lowcountry is enjoying the great outdoors — but that can also mean all kinds of nasty bites, stings, and other injuries from insects and ocean dwellers.

“The first thing to do is always be aware of your surroundings,” says Dr. Gary Cianci of Roper St. Francis Express Care. But even if you’re careful, injuries can happen. Here’s everything to know about bites, stings, and ocean things — and when to see a doctor.

What to Do About Bites and Stings

The most common bites Dr. Cianci sees are from mosquitos, ants, fire ants, flies, and chiggers. (Spider bites are less frequent.) “We also see tick bites, which are one of those scary things, because people worry about Lyme disease,” Dr. Cianci says, “although in South Carolina it’s a lot less common than other areas.” As for stings, he sees the usual suspects like bees and wasps.

While every person reacts differently, there are some things to look out for to determine if you should see a doctor for any bite or sting.

“If you’re noticing a significant amount of swelling, pain, increasing redness, or fever, those would be some indications to seek medical attention,” Dr. Cianci says. For a tick bite, watch out for enlarging redness, target lesions (they look like a bull's eye), and joint pain. For any tick bite, he recommends calling your doctor and following their individual recommendation.

If you have a known allergy, seek medical attention urgently. If you notice rapid swelling, especially in the face, throat, and tongue, or difficulty breathing, those symptoms could be a sign of an allergic reaction, and you should call 911 immediately.

What’s Lurking in the Ocean?

“In the ocean around South Carolina, there are oyster shell beds, and if you come in contact with the shells, they’re razor-sharp,” Dr. Cianci says. “A lot of times, if waves are big, people can get thrown into the beds.”

“The first defense against oyster shell wounds is knowing your environment, knowing the territory you’re swimming in,” he says. They're often found near structures, so stay away from piers and outcroppings. The bottom of the foot is the most frequent location for oyster shell cuts, so he recommends wearing some kind of foot protection in the water.

Oyster shell cuts can be very deep and become infected, so the first thing you should do is wash the wound with clean soapy water as soon as possible, and then seek medical attention.

The next thing to look out for when swimming is jellyfish. Be aware of your surroundings, and in particular, keep an eye out for the Portuguese man o’ war, which looks like a floating blue plastic bottle. If you do get stung, make sure to remove your clothing carefully, as stingers can be stuck in the fibers. The most important thing to do is flush the area with warm water and vinegar. If the area seems to be healing well, you might not seek medical treatment, but if swelling and redness get worse, it's time to see a doctor.

Finally, be aware of stingrays, as you could accidentally step on one and experience severe burning pain. “The treatment for that is submerging the affected area in water that is as warm as the person can tolerate,” Dr. Cianci says. “Even if they’re feeling okay, they should seek medical attention, because a stingray barb can be dislodged and become a foreign body in the foot.”

So get out there and enjoy the great outdoors — but always stay aware of your surroundings, and remember what steps to take for each of these common injuries.

As the Lowcountry leader in adult healthcare, Roper St. Francis can take care of all of your healthcare and express care needs. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (843) 402- CARE or visit rsfh.com.