How To Remove Sea Urchin Spines
How to Treat Sea Urchin Injuries
Sea urchins are spiny sea creatures that are round and covered with very sharp needles called "spines;" depending on the species some of these spines can emit toxins. Typically seen in coastal and reef waters, many people become impaled on sea urchin spines while surfing, scuba diving or even walking in shallow waters. Almost all sea urchin venom (secreted from the pedicellaria organs) and their spines are non lethal, but can be extremely painful. A common place to get them is on the foot or the hand - from stepping on an urchin or falling off of a surfboard. The spines can go very deep into your skin and because they are brittle can sometimes be very difficult to remove without breaking off the tip. If you do get impaled by urchin spines, here are some tips of how to treat them until you can get medical attention.
Steps to Treat Sea Urchin Injury
1) Apply a topical antiseptic to clean and disinfect the wound until you can get to a clean comfortable place to apply further treatment - hydrogen peroxide is a good start, and neosporin is good to apply to the area as well. As with other types of wounds, keeping the urchin spine injuries clean is good to do.
2) Soak the injured area in a pot of very warm water (obviously not so hot that you scald yourself...but the hotter, the better) - you should submerge the affected area until the skin is 'pruned' or well soaked (about 20 minutes). If you have some epsom salt handy, it helps to add some to the water. Do this several times a day until the injury is resolved. The hot water helps with the pain, keeps the wound clean, and helps the body push out the embedded spines as it softens the skin (which makes it easier for extraction once it dries out a bit ... see step 5).
3) You can try to remove the spines with pliers or tweezers, though the spines may be too flush with the skin to get good purchase. For simple punctures that look like the spines are protruding and can be easily pulled out, gently remove them. Also, as mentioned earlier, the spines can be very brittle and may be very hard to remove without breaking. Still...it is worth a shot, so if you do so, try to be careful not to crush the ends with the tweezers and break them, and though it is painful to pull them out, it makes the whole recovery period a lot easier!
4) Soaking the affected area in some vinegar helps alleviate the pain from venom. (some people apply urine when vinegar is not available...) - not all sea urchin spines have venom (in fact, only about a dozen or so species of sea urchin emit venom) -if you don't feel the venom 'sting' then obviously don't bother with this step. Vinegar does not dissolve the spines, it only helps to counteract the effects of the venom.
5) If you are experienced with using a needle or a pin to dig out splinters and thorns, this technique works well with urchin spines. Make sure that you use a sterilized needle and if you are causing bleeding, you should stop. I recommend attempting an extraction after you have soaked the affected area in warm water for a while.
6) To keep the wound clean, when you head out and about, you should be sure to first apply some antiseptic like neosporin to the area and then cover it with a ban-aid to keep debris from infecting the wounds.
Keep soaking the urchin affected area in warm water a couple of times a day and keep that wound clean!
Seek Medical Attention
If you have are impaled by many spines and/or if some are very deep and painful you should definitely have a doctor take a look at the injury. They can assist with safe removal of the urchin spines and can prescribe antibiotics to stave off infection. For minor injuries, try the techniques above for a day or two, and make sure to reapply topical antiseptic and cover with a band aid to keep the wound clean.
The body should push out or dissolve any spine fragments in about a month.