Snorkel First Aid: Sea Urchin Puncture Wounds


Last Updated on June 26, 2023 by Snorkel Ken


The first thing to note is that you’re probably not in real danger of dying. Here’s some quick guidance:

  • A puncture from a sea urchin can cause redness, swelling, pain and possible infection in the affected area. Carry on to treating a sea urchin puncture below and follow the steps and tips there.
  • If you are stuck or punctured by multiple, deep sea urchin punctures and wounds then that could cause muscle fatigue, muscle aches, weakness, shock, paralysis and respiratory failure. Death is possible. Call 911. Follow the red lettering at the bottom of this article for additional guidance.

Even though there are snorkeling etiquette rules, people will still be curious and daring. We get it. It’s part of the whole snorkeling adventure aspect of the hobby. People are still going to go against snorkeling etiquette rules numbers 1, 2, and 3. People are going to touch coral. People are going to touch other stuff. And people are going to do more than just look at the marine life.

That’s when snorkeling first aid might come in handy. For this installment of snorkeling first aid let’s look at how to prevent sea urchin puncture wounds, stings and sticks as well as a few reminders on how you might be able to avoid getting injured by a sea urchin in the first place.

Prevention for Sea Urchin Punctures, Stings and Sticks


• If you’re in the water and you have your mask on then take a look around of your exit and entrance areas, particularly in rocky areas or spots that a lot of coral. These are where your sea urchins are going to be. Look particularly on rocks, in crevices, etc.

• If a certain area has been taken over by a lot of sea urchins try to find another location. If you’re snorkeling in area where there are a lot of sea urchins and the water is deep enough to float and swim over the urchins then do so.

• Again, snorkel etiquette rule number 3: Don’t touch marine life. Even the most docile and non-aggressive sea life can cause pain and injury…sea urchins case-in-point. It’s not their fault that you stuck yourself on one of their spines!

Sea Urchin Puncture Wounds Treatment

Video is of me getting punctured…

1.  Immerse the wounded area in hot water that is as hot as the injured person can take. HOT! Don’t scald yourself, obviously. Keep dunking and soaking the injured area for 30 to 90 minutes. This will control the pain and swelling as well do some cleansing of the wounded area.

2.  If there are any pieces of sea urchin spine in the wound then treat like a splinter and remove with tweezers.
Sea urchins have two types of venomous organs – spines and pedicellaria. Spines produce puncture wounds.

3.  Pedicellaria are small, delicate wrench like organs that lie between the spines and release venom when they attach to an object. Get rid of the pedicellaria by applying shaving cream to the affected area and gently scrape the skin with a razor.

4.  At the end, briskly wash the affected area with soap and water. Continue to flush the area with clean, fresh water.

Tips to Sea Urchin First Aid when Snorkeling

  • Do not seal the wound or close it with tape or glue skin. All you’re doing is keeping bacteria and venom in the wound with no chance of leaving the body when it begins to be rejected by natural defenses.
  • If signs of infection occur: pus, redness, or heat/hot feeling then apply some TOPICAL antibiotic or cream to the area. Call the doctor. A professional may want to prescribe your some antibiotics to help fight the infection. Remember to use all of the antibiotics that are prescribed in the directed way. Note: Some antibiotics are sensitive to light. Ask a doctor.
  • You can relieve pain due to sea urchin injuries (after the initial treatment measures are followed) with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin and/or Advil). Take the acetaminophen every 4 hours and the ibuprofen every 6 to 8 hours.

Emergency Sea Urchin Medical Care: When to Seek a Hospital or Call 911 Sea Urchin Puncture Wounds-

• If the victim develops breathing problems or chest pain.

• If sea urchin spines enter near or on a joint may actually required removal by surgery.

• Signs of infection as noted above. (redness, pus, skin warmth, pain getting worse, severe swelling)


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