Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Wilderness: Starfish, Crown of Thorns, and Sea Star Punctures

Starfish, Crown of Thorns, and Sea Star Punctures Overview

Starfish, crown of thorns, and sea stars live throughout the subtropics and tropics. They are bottom dwellers, so any contact with a diver is accidental. Injury occurs from the spine and the venom injected from the spine. Crown of thorns have as many as 13-16 short, sharp spines that are up to 6 cm (over 2 inches) long.

Starfish, Crown of Thorns, and Sea Star Punctures Symptoms

Puncture symptoms include:

  • Severe pain
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Heat
  • Redness

More severe reactions include: 

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint aches
  • Headaches
  • Cough.

Starfish, Crown of Thorns, and Sea Star Punctures Treatment

If medical attention is not readily available, use the following guidelines for treating a puncture wound:

  • Immerse the affected area in water as hot as the person can tolerate for 30-90 minutes. Repeat as necessary to control pain.
  • Use tweezers to remove any spines in the wound because symptoms may not go away until all spines have been removed.
  • Scrub the wound with soap and water followed by extensive rinsing with fresh water.
  • Do not cover the wound with tape.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream 2-3 times daily as needed for itching. Discontinue immediately if any signs of infection appear.
  • Apply topical antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin) 3 times per day if signs of infection, such as pus, redness, or heat, are present.

Oral antibiotics are usually recommended for infection.

  • Continue antibiotics for at least 5 days after all signs of infection have cleared.
  • Check for drug allergy prior to starting any antibiotic.
  • When outside, use sunscreen and wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat, while taking these antibiotics because certain antibiotics may cause sensitivity to the sun. 

Pain may be relieved with 1-2 acetaminophen (Tylenol) tablets every 4 hours or 1-2 ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) tablets every 6-8 hours.

When to Seek Medical Care

Seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications.

Synonyms and Keywords

wilderness: starfish, crown of thorns, and sea star punctures, starfish punctures, crown of thorns punctures, sea star punctures, scuba diving, snorkeling

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 10, 2014

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

hands on abdomen
Can you catch one?
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
womans hand on abdomen
Are you ready for baby?
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
mosquito
Stings, bites, burns, and more.
Allentown, PA
Are you living in one?
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.