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Sea Urchin Stings

By Robert A. Barish, MD, MBA, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago ; Thomas Arnold, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport

Sea urchins are covered with long, sharp, sometimes venom-coated spines. Touching or stepping on these spines typically causes a painful puncture wound. The spines commonly break off in the skin and cause chronic pain and inflammation if not removed. Joint and muscle pain and rashes may develop.

Sea urchin spines should be removed immediately. Because vinegar dissolves most sea urchin spines, several vinegar soaks or compresses may be all that is needed to remove spines that have not penetrated deeply. Surgical removal may be required for imbedded spines. Soaking the injured body part in hot water often relieves the pain.

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