First Aid for embedded sea urchin spines and jelly fish stings

First aid if you step on a sea urchin

Posted by First Aid for Life on Tuesday, 22 August 2017


Sea urchins don’t look to do anyone any harm. However, they are prickly and if you tread on them 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.

If a sea urchin spike does become embedded, soak the affected area in hot water or saline (as hot as you can bear) and 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 – 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 their urine. Urine is sterile when excreted from the body and is uric acid. Vinegar is acetic acid. A mild acid is beneficial to stings!

First Aid for embedded sea urchin spines and jelly fish 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 (or urine!) 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 immerse in vinegar (or urine) as it will make the pain worse

It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

Please visit, or tel 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses. First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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