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First Aid for Sea Sponge Irritation

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

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A sea sponge is a sea floor dwelling, non-aggressive marine creature. It has a porous body through which water enters, circulates, and exits. An irritation occurs on skin contact with certain chemicals released by the sponges.


What is Sea Sponge Irritation?

A sea sponge is a sea floor dwelling, non-aggressive marine creature. It has a porous body through which water enters, circulates, and exits. An irritation occurs on skin contact with certain chemicals released by the sponges.

What are the Causes of Sea Sponge Irritation?

Most common causes of Sea Sponge Irritation include (but are not limited to):

  • Harvesting sponges without wearing protective gloves
  • Individuals working in sponge aquaculture
  • Walking barefoot on the beach or in shallow sea water

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Sea Sponge Irritation?

Signs and symptoms of Sea Sponge Irritation vary according to the type of species the individual is exposed to and the amount of toxin injected. The symptoms may be mild or severe and could include:

  • Rashes on the skin, red-color skin
  • Itching
  • Burning sensation on the skin
  • Swelling of the area
  • Pain
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Muscle cramps

How is First Aid administered for Sea Sponge Irritation?

If a Sea Sponge Irritation (or sting or bite of a marine creature) is suspected, it is always important to call your local emergency helpline number (or 911 in the US) without any delay, and provide as much information as possible, even if the individual does not have any symptoms.

Until medical help arrives:

  • Move the individual away from the water or incident spot
  • Make a note of the exact time of the incident and notify the emergency medical personnel accordingly
  • Remove spicules (small pointed objects released by the sea sponge) using adhesive tape; use a facial peel, if the face is affected
  • Try to identify or locate the marine animal (only if safely possible) and keep the medical personnel informed
  • DO NOT give anything orally to the individual
  • Unless directed by the physician, DO NOT give any medication

Who should administer First Aid for Sea Sponge Irritation?

The individual himself/herself or someone nearby may begin to administer First Aid. Call your local emergency helpline number or 911 immediately as mentioned before.

What is the Prognosis of Sea Sponge Irritation?

The prognosis of Sea Sponge Irritation is good with proper and timely treatment.

How can Sea Sponge Irritation be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Sea Sponge Irritation include:

  • Avoid making an attempt to touch or handle marine animals unnecessarily
  • Do not ignore warnings of lifeguards or health officials at the beach
  • Use hand gloves while picking, handling, or breaking sponges
  • Wear protective footwear while walking on beach sand
  • Do not handle dead or even dried sea sponges

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?

Do’s:

  • Call your local emergency helpline number (or 911) for help
  • Remove the victim immediately from the water
  • When in doubt, wash the affected area with seawater and not freshwater
  • If possible, use hot water to repeatedly wash the wound

Don’ts:

  • Do not hesitate to call your emergency help services
  • Do not medicate the individual, unless advised by a healthcare professional
  • Do not move the affected region of the body too much
  • Do not run or exercise which might increase the circulation of toxin in the body
  • Do not elevate the affected area above the heart level, since this can also increase circulation of the toxin

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Dec. 27, 2015
Last updated: March 5, 2018