Sea Urchin Punctures

Puncture by sea urchin spines can be very painful and long-lasting, and infection is not uncommon. Punctures near a joint are especially worrisome.

First, remove any spine fragments that you can reach. The dark spots under the skin are only black pigment from the spine, it's the spine proper that causes the problems. Tweezers can be used to snare protruding ends. Then, carefully shave the area with a razor, which also can help in removing barbs. Sometimes later surgical removal of deep fragments is required.

Next scrub the area very thoroughly with soap and fresh water, then copiously flush with fresh water.

Then immerse the affected area(s) in hot water (as hot as can be tolerated without burning the skin; ~115 deg F) for at least an hour and preferably more. This coagulates the venom, which is largely protein, and greatly reduces pain and swelling. This can be repeated if pain recurs. Adding Epsom salts or other magnesium sulfate compound to the water may help in dissolving the spines and reducing swelling. Vinegar, or urine, are not of help.

Take ibuprofen or a similar NASAID to further reduce pain and swelling.

Finally, apply a topical antibiotic ointment, but don't cover the wound.

If an infection develops, see a physician immediately.

The spines eventually will disappear through a combination of being dissolved and being encapsulated by fibrous material and forced to the surface of the skin. This can take many months and there is nothing to be done to hasten the process short of surgical removal. Be aware that the dark pigment from the spines may last even longer.

This is educational only and does not constitute or imply a doctor-patient relationship. It is not medical advice to you or any other individual, and should not be construed as such.

© Doc Vikingo 2007

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