How to Treat a sea urchin sting

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Treat a sea urchin sting
Treat a sea urchin sting (Image: Wikipedia)

While sea urchins are some of the least aggressive animals in the ocean, they are nevertheless responsible for injuring numerous divers and swimmers who inadvertently step on their spine-covered bodies. Sea urchins actually have two different defense mechanisms. One are the spines that produce the puncture wounds and smaller, delicate seizing organs called pedicellaria that lie between the spines and release venom when they attach to something (or someone). Puncture injuries from a sea urchin may result in swelling, redness, pain, and infection, and multiple deep punctures may even result in paralysis, respiratory failure, and death. It is important to treat sea urchin puncture wounds right away in order to avoid complications.

Things You'll Need

  • Hot water
  • Tweezers
  • Shaving cream
  • Razor
  • Soap
  • Topical antibiotic cream or lotion

Immerse the wound(s) for 30 minutes or an hour in water as hot as the patient can stand. This can help to alleviate the pain, and may be repeated as necessary.

Remove any large spines with tweezers. Remove pedicellaria by spreading shaving cream on the wound and gently scraping it with a razor.

Clean the wound with soap and fresh water. Rinse it thoroughly with plenty of fresh water.

Keep the wound open. Do not attempt to close it with bandages, sutures or glue.

Apply topical antibiotic cream or lotion if swelling, redness, or any other signs of infection occur. In such an instance, the patient must see a doctor, where oral antibiotics may also be prescribed as necessary.

Relieve the pain with doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed. Acetaminophen may be taken every four hours; ibuprofen, every six to eight hours.

Tips & Warnings

  • Patient must receive immediate medical care if he experiences any difficulty with breathing or chest pain.
  • Sea urchin spines entering near a joint may require surgical removal.

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