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Embedded sea urchin spines and jelly fish stings

Sea urchins don’t look to do anyone any harm. However, they are prickly and if you tread on them,  and unfortunately the spines can easily snap off and become embedded in your foot. Weaver fish pose a similar hazard with sharp dorsal spines. Encourage everyone to wear beach shoes when swimming and paddling.

Embedded spikes, how to helpIf a sea urchin spike does become embedded, ideally soak the affected area in vinegar, hot water or saline. Carefully remove the spike with tweezers in the direction it went in. Squeeze the wound to remove any extra bits. Do not be tempted to probe around with a needle as this will make things worse. Some people advise to shave the affected area to remove any additional spines – However, I would caution against this as it will make it far more difficult to remove additional spines as they begin to work themselves out. For any you are unable to remove, seek medical advice and monitor the wounds for signs of infection. It is possible you may need antibiotics if the wound becomes infected.

For common jelly fish stings; vinegar is the best antidote, although some people do swear by the power of urine. Urine is sterile at the point when it is excreted from the body and is uric acid. Vinegar is acetic acid. A mild acid is beneficial to stings!

Jelly fish stings – what to do:

  • Reassure the casualty and sit them down
  • If there are any tentacles remaining, remove with tweezers – get a medical professional to do this if you are unsure
  • If the casualty shows any signs of breathing problems, or acute allergic reaction or anaphylaxis – phone an ambulance immediately
  • Soak the affected area in vinegar for 15-30 minutes –

    NOTE – with stings from a Portuguese Man of War (these are not jellyfish but are often mistaken for them) – do not use vinegar (or urine) as it will make the pain worse

Emma Hammett
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