Skip to content

Information and Resources

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

Font Size
A
A
A

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

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
pregnancy test and calendar
Helping you get pregnant.
man rubbing painful knee
A visual guide.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
row of colored highlighter pens
Tips for living better.
human lungs
Symptoms, causes, treatments.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
two male hands
Test your knowledge.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.