Saturday, September 01, 2012


Walking through some thick underbrush several weeks ago my bare arm brushed against a branch. Immediately my forearm started to sting and tingle. I glanced down and a rash had already formed. It looked and felt as though I had been stung by a jellyfish. I showed my arm to a couple of people. The consensus was that I had probably contacted a stinging caterpillar. Several days went by and a couple of people who had seen my rash wanted to know if I had the sprangles. They were glad to hear that I didn't.

To "sprangle" means to branch out in different directions. On Ocracoke, sprangles are red lines that spread out from a wound or rash. They generally indicate blood poisoning or some other serious problem.

I didn't have the sprangles, but I'm still not sure what critter stung me. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of midwifery on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:50 AM

    Philip, so thankful you don't have the "sprangles"! If you ever encounter that pain again while roaming through some of Ocracoke Island thick underbrush, NC Mainlander suggests cutting a piece from an aloe plant and rubbing it on the affected area.

    You can say "Ahhhhh!" The pain should quickly vanish!

  2. Anonymous10:56 AM

    Philip: Sounds like a brush--literally--with stinging nettle. Do you know if this plant is present on Ocracoke? It's a tallish plant that looks benign though a shade thistly, and a mere brush against the skin raises that instant, unmistakable sensation of a jellyfish sting--a light yet sharp prickly feeling that's almost more itch than sting yet doesn't go away with scratching but only intensifies, almost like a light burn. It feels as if you should just be able to pluck out a stinger but (like the Wallace Stevens poem) there's no "there" there, nothing visible that would seem to be causing the distress. And to my recollection/experience there's not even any sort of a rash to speak of, just a slight reddening and that's most likely from all the scratching you're doing trying to make the feeling go away. I seem to recall that, similar to dealing with a jellyfish sting, the best course of action is just to tough it out and wait for the sensation to fade over time, which doesn't take too terribly long. Hope that's all it is in your case. (And if others have suggestions for better ways to treat stinging nettle--or jellyfish stings--please share.)

  3. I'm not sure if we have stinging nettles on Ocracoke...but I know that I brushed up against a live oak sapling. So I am guessing the sting came from a critter. The redness lasted about 4 days, though the sting only lasted a few hours.

  4. Jewell weed is a remedy for stinging nettle. Crush the leaves, rub it on the "sting" and you have immediate relief. In southwest OH the two plants can be found quite close to each other.