Visitors to Hawaii should prepare for a variety of medical mishaps like sunburn and heartburn. However, many visitors also suffer stings from sea urchins (or wana), small prickly critters living in the rocks and floors of the seas around the Hawaiian Islands. If left untreated a sea urchin sting can lead to a dangerous infection. Wailea Medical Center and Urgent Care in Maui accepts walk-in emergencies from tourists.
The Dangerous Spines
Urchin used to be an old name for “hedgehog” because, like hedgehogs, sea urchins are covered in spines. Unlike hedgehogs, these spines are often coated with venom. All sea urchin spines can cause painful puncture wounds. Unless the spines are completely removed, symptoms like rashes, joint aches and infections can occur. An untreated sea urchin spine can lead to a long time with pain.
Fortunately, sea urchins are shy creatures that do not seek out people to sting. If left alone, they leave everyone else alone. Do not handle a sea urchin. If diving or snorkeling, wear flippers or foot protection if going near any crevices or rocky areas.
Sea urchin spines that cannot be removed with a tweezer dissolve in vinegar. Making a compress with vinegar instead of water helps to dissolve spines lodged into the skin. Expect to go through many compresses before the spine is completely dissolved. A doctor such as at Wailea Medical Center and Urgent Care in Maui still needs to check the stung area to make sure all traces of the spine are gone.
Surgery may be necessary to remove a deeply embedded spine or spines. This procedure can often be done in a doctor’s office and usually does not require general anesthesia. If there is any doubt about whether a spine has been successfully removed or dissolved, go to a doctor or emergency room at once. Also, go to a doctor or ER if the stung person begins trouble breathing or goes into shock.
When the spine is out, leave the wound open. Do not bandage. Give NSAIDs for pain. Soaking the painful area in warm water also helps. Visit the website to find out more about urgent care centers in Maui and surrounding areas to treat emergencies like sea urchin stings for vacationers.
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