sea urchin sting

How to treat a sea urchin sting

Fact Checked

One might end up with a sea urchin sting when spending time in the beach. Sea urchins are small, spiny and globular animals. The shell of sea urchins is spiny and round, about 3-10 cm across. Their colors are usually black and dull shades of green, brown, olive, purple, blue and red. These animals move slowly and feed on algae.

Risk factors

  • Wading in ocean waters without wearing protective clothing
  • Coral reef divers
  • Walking barefoot on beaches or in shallow waters
    Sea urchin sting
    Swelling and redness of the affected area that result to severe pain and infections.
  • Visiting places where there are plenty of sea urchins
  • Picking up sea urchins with bare hands
  • Handling dead or alive sea urchins
  • Swimmers, divers, surfers and beachgoers


Sea urchins release poisonous chemicals in the skin which causes effects on the human body.

There are 2 types of organs which are the defense mechanisms of sea urchins:

  • The spines are the initial line of defense which are large, dense and can pierce the skin which results to puncture wounds
  • Pedicellarines are the second line of defense that are found between the spines and shorter than the spines. They are fine, thorn-like structures that grip the skin and inject painful venom when activated.


  • Swelling and redness of the affected area that result to severe pain and infections.
  • Multiple deep punctured wounds that cause weakness, fatigue, shock, muscle pain, paralysis and respiratory failure or even death.

Treatment for a sea urchin sting

  • Remove the spines rapidly to lessen the spread of the venom.
  • Utilize tweezers in removing the bulging ends of the large spines. Move it slowly to prevent breaking the spines. If it breaks, seek medical help immediately.
  • Another alternative in removing the spines is using hot wax. Apply hot wax to the sting site, let it dry and remove. The spines will be pulled out together with the wax.
  • Remove the pedicellarines to prevent the spread of the venom. Apply shaving cream on the affected area and scrape it gently using a razor to prevent further injury to the area.
  • After removing, clean the wound using soap and water. Hydrogen peroxide or betadine can also used for cleaning the wound. Rinse it thoroughly after washing.
  • Do not close the wound using bandages and tape. Any embedded spines that are not fully removed by tweezers should be removed to prevent bacterial infection.
  • Soak the wound in hot water as hot that can be tolerated to lessen the pain and dissolve any spines left in the area. Epsom salt or magnesium sulfate can be added to the water for fast healing of the condition.
  • Take the prescribed over-the-counter pain medications to lessen the pain and inflammation.

More Information

The details posted on this page on sea urchin sting is for learning purposes only. To learn to provide proper wound care on sea urchin stings, enroll in a first aid course with one of our training providers.


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