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First Aid for Sea Urchin Sting

Last updated March 1, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

A sea urchin is a marine creature with a hedgehog-like appearance. These hard-shelled animals have spines all over the body, which can be venomous.

What is Sea Urchin Sting?

A sea urchin is marine creature with a hedgehog-like appearance. These hard-shelled animals have spines all over the body, which can be venomous.

What are the Causes of Sea Urchin Sting?

Most common causes of Sea Urchin Sting include (but are not limited to):

  • Exposure to sea urchin in the ocean or at the beach; swimmers, surfers, divers, and beachgoers are at risk
  • Wading in ocean waters without suitable protective clothing
  • Picking up sea urchins with bare hands
  • Visiting beaches where the creature is common
  • Handling sea urchins, either alive or dead

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Sea Urchin Sting?

Signs and symptoms of Sea Urchin Stings 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:

  • Mild cases:
    • Puncture wounds
    • Severe pain
    • Tingling sensation, numbness
    • Swelling of the area
    • Rashes on the skin
  • Severe symptoms may be systemic and may additionally include:
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Muscular spasms, joint pain and stiffness
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Unconsciousness

How is First Aid administered for Sea Urchin Sting?

If a Sea Urchin Sting (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
  • Try to remove the stinger (if visible), by gently scraping the site using a hard-edged object (either metal or plastic) or a pair of tweezers
  • Use hot wax to remove smaller spines
  • Use pressure to arrest any bleeding
  • 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 Urchin Sting?

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 Urchin Sting?

The prognosis of Sea Urchin Sting is dependent on the potency of the toxin, the severity of reaction, and timely manner in which treatment is administered.

How can Sea Urchin Sting be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Sea Urchin Stings include:

  • Avoid making an attempt to touch or handle marine animals unnecessarily, even if they are pets
  • Do not ignore warnings of lifeguards or health officials at the beach
  • Wear protective clothing if you plan to swim or dive in infested areas
  • Generally be aware or watchful of the waters you are in (to the extent possible)
  • Do not handle dead urchins, since they can also sting

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?


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


  • Do not hesitate to call your emergency help services
  • Do not remove stingers without wearing suitable protective hand gloves
  • 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 1, 2018