I stepped on a sea urchin

Ouch! But when it happened I just thought I kicked a sea shell. When I looked down the tip of my big toe was bleeding. Thankfully I was on land rather than swimming with sharks.

I had 5 purple urchin spine tips in my toe. They all came out easily but one … it figures!

I poked at it once I got it home with tools from the kid’s science equipment and some peroxide. It won’t come out.

My husband said when his dad stepped on a sea urchin the doctor told him that whatever was left in his foot would eventually dissolve. He was ok with that. I’m not. Do I turn into an echinoderm? Do I turn purple? Do I have to eat seaweed the rest of my life? Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad, ’cause it’s tasty.

I did a Google search and found out the doctor was right. So here is what you should do if you step on a sea urchin.

Don’t panic! I didn’t. It’s not so bad. It hurt, and I know my kids would freak if it happened to them, but its not so bad.

Use a tweezer to get the spines out. The one’s I got out had broken off above the skin so I was able to pull them out. You can gently squeeze the sides of the spine with your thumb nails, too.

Be aware … the spines are made of calcium carbonate and they’ll crumble and stick in your skin.  (I guess I got my dose of calcium today!)

As soon as you can apply an antiseptic.  Soak the affected area in a bucket of very warm water with Epsom Salts. Do this several times a day for the duration of the injury. This helps with the pain and softens the skin for spine removal. It may even encourage the spines to either dissolve or be expelled. Apply an antibiotic ointment. If your injury is really painful, take some pain killers (like Goody’s Powder…my favorite because it works so quickly), and elevate the wound.

It could take several weeks for the spines to expell themselves from your skin. Your body may have a hard lump around the injured area, because as it heals, skin cells are reacting to having the foreign object in your body. It will go away.

If the area gets infected go see a doctor.

And last, if there is any purple dye in your foot, don’t worry. That will go away, too.

I also saw a webblog where someone had used duct tape on the injury for several days and the spines eventually surfaced.  I’m opting to treat my injury using the above rather that duct tape.  But good for him that it worked.

I’m going to Sear’s tomorrow and purchase some water shoes at Land’s End. I’ve been thinking I should have some anyway. It is a nasty feeling walking around sea grasses off South Lido Beach, but we love going over there looking for critters for the fish tank.

Today we got 2 shrimp, 2 purple long-spined urchins (I’ve never seen these before and they’re not in my Florida Beaches book), another hermit crab in a fig shell, an apple murex snail and lots of shells and seaweed.

I’ll let you know when this sea urchin spine falls out.

Edited March 24: Ok, so its been a month now.  I haven’t turned purple and spiny so I’m relieved at that.  I did lose a little bit of the spine that was really stuck.  I think there’s more to come.  The tip of my toe remains a little pointy where the spine is.  There’s a tiny piece of scar tissue but I pick it off.  I also still have a scab where I plucked the other spines out; I guess they’ll go away soon.  So, what I’ve learned is…be careful around sea urchins.  I’ve also learned that a lot of people step on or trip over them as well.  This is my top post and is visited daily by a ton of people.  There’s a fishing forum in west Florida that included my post on their site and a lot of referrals come from there (most likely to read about the stupid lady that wasn’t careful on the beach), but many many people just search “how to get sea urchins out of my foot”.  Makes me feel not-so-stupid after all.  LOL.  By the way, we still have the white hermit crab in the fig shell. You can read about his adventures in my post “Salt Water Fish Tank part 5”.

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Jellyfish

I’ve been wanting to write about jellyfish so here goes:  I’ve stated before that there are tons of moon jellies washing ashore since the last hurricane.  They’re pretty big, too. 

I took the boys on a 4H field trip last Friday to South Lido Beach near the park.  The instructor was Keith Wilson from the Extension office.  The children (there were 8 of them in this group) were throwing nets in the grasses along the shore.  They were scooping up fish, grasses and moon jellies.  Keith told the kids that moon jellies were ok to touch and showed them how to pick them up.  Of course the boys that did pick them up got slimed but that was fun for them.  Moon jellies are saucer-shaped and clear.  They have a 4-lobed “flower”-like shape in the center.  It can be pink or yellow.  They have short tentacles that look frilly.  We learned that some people can have a reaction to the slime of a moon jelly, some don’t.  Only one of the children had a reaction to the slime.  You can touch the top but if you’re not sure about having a reaction I wouldn’t recommend touching the tentacles.  The jelly I’ve seen that I wouldn’t recommend touching at all is the Sea Nettle.  This one has red radiating stripes.  Jellies prey on zooplankton so there must be a ton of zooplankton by our coast right now for them to come in swarms.

Some jellies are bioluminescent so if you are at the beach at night, maybe star-gazing, check the surf for a pulsing light from the jellies.

Last Thanksgiving, we spent the holiday with my in-laws on the east coast of FL.  They live on Singer Island.  The afternoon we arrived we all took a walk along their beach and saw these purple balloon-like things all around us.  At first we had just thought maybe someone had a party and didn’t clean up after themselves but then realized they were Portuguese Man-o-War.  It was really cool to see them (I had never before seen one in person) but at the same time, since there were so many, it was creepy.  Their tentacles are so long and even though they are beached, they can still sting so we had to be careful walking so not to step on one.  We headed to the public beach just south of their condo for some shelling.  Amazingly there were a lot of people swimming where these Man-o-War jellies were.  Children included.  I guess people either don’t care or they’re just oblivious to the dangers.  According to Florida’s Living Beaches by the Witheringtons, Man-o-War live in the wide-open sea and beach themselves in the winter at the end of their journey.  Beachings are most common December through May (we saw them the end of November).  I shouldn’t call them jellies, although they do look like jellies.  They’re actually colonies of individual polyps, each doing something to help the colony like collecting food, reproducing etc.  They from the class Hydrozoa, phylum Cnidaria.

The tentacles of the Man-o-War can be 6 feet long when beached and up to 150 ft fully extended at sea.  If you get stung, the tentacles stick to you, so don’t rub, just pick/peel it off.  Then treat with meat tenderizer or urine. 

We’re heading, once again, to Singer Island for Thanksgiving so I’ll post an update if we see them again.  Maybe we’ll see another sea critter this time.