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Sea Urchins, Stonefishes, Stingrays
Porcupines of the sea, urchin spines are like hypodermic needles that break
off once deep inside you, injecting their venom. The venom from stonefish
spines is delivered deep into the wound and produces excruciating pain that
may last several days. Stingrays use one or more large spines or stings on
their tails as defensive weapons. When you step on one, the ray thrusts its
tail forward and upward, lacerating or puncturing your foot, ankle or leg.
Mind-numbing, eye-watering pain, redness, swelling and bleeding. Multiple
punctures can cause weakness, paralysis, breathing difficulty, even death.
If possible, elevate the affected area and apply a pressure bandage.
Both techniques will help slow the absorption of any venom in the
wound. Do not apply a tourniquet. This will generally result in more
damage than it will prevent.
Immerse the wound in 45C/115F water, or as hot as you can
tolerate, for 30 to 90 minutes. Many marine toxins are proteins which
are destroyed by heat, much like what happens to an egg when it's
hard-boiled. A hot soak can dramatically reduce the pain, and amount
of damage, caused by a sting.
Control the pain. The pain from marine stings can be excruciating and
lead to shock, making pain control an important early step in wound
care. This can generally be done with local anesthetics, and very
rarely will require the use of systemic pain relievers or narcotics.
Cleanse the wound with an antiseptic solution. Washing out remaining
venom and pieces of spine will help minimize damage, speed healing
and prevent infection. Leave an inaccessible spine alone only if it
hasn't penetrated a joint, nerve or blood vessel.
Seek appropriate medical care. Despite doing all of the above, some
wounds will require surgical cleansing and repair, antibiotics for
infection control, as well as antivenins and life support for severe
stings. It is not always immediately obvious which stings will need
more intensive medical care, so if at all possible, get care for all stings.