Sea urchins can be seen on the shore line and at depth. They are spikey little balls and from a diver point of view one of the more dangerous things in the ocean. They will certainly not jump out and however, they do have venomous spines that will cause reactions. Sea urchins are not aggressive creatures and move at extremely slow speeds; nevertheless, divers often get pierced by these creatures because they accidentally brush up against them or step on them.
If you are unlucky punctured by a sea urchin, the first symptom you will notice is intense pain at the entry wound. If your skin is punctured by one of the venomous spikes, you may experience a severe, burning sensation for several hours, swelling, bleeding or temporary numbness. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, muscle paralysis, low blood pressure and weakness in your body. More severe experiences can range in degree from respiratory distress to unconsciousness. There are rare times when the punctures are fatal.
After about six hours, most effects of the sea urchin’s sting will subside. However, there are some long-term effects that may result if the spines are not removed from the wound. Most sea urchin stings will heal on their own. The process of removing sea urchin spines can take months; however, there is a process you can use to help the healing process. The most important thing to do is watch for infection, when infection occurs, it is time to see a doctor for help.
Here are the steps you can take to help your recovery:
- Remove large spines. You can use tweezers to pull the protruding ends.
- Shave small spines. After you have removed the large spines, you can remove the minute spikes by using shaving cream and a razor. Be sure that you have removed all the protruding spines and clean thoroughly with soap and water. Use fresh water and soap to completely scrub the area. Flush with fresh water several times.
- Hot water to ease pain. Immerse the stung area in water as hot as you can handle. Repeat this step when pain recurs.
- Do Not Bandage. Keeping the wound open allows the embedded spines to work their way out.
- See Doctor if Infected. Infection is a concern so on the first sign of infection see a doctor. A doctor will be able to help remove the deep spines safely and prescribe appropriate medications to help with infections.
Prevention is better than cure, and it is easy fairly to avoid sea urchins as they do not jump out at you. When diving in an area that is known to have sea urchins, the best thing, you can do is maintain an awareness of your surroundings. Wearing appropriate diving gear such as thick-soled booties, quality dive gloves and a thick wetsuit. Learn good Buoyancy control and treat the ocean floor with respect.