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Wilderness: Sea Sponge Irritation (cont.)

Sea Sponge Irritation Treatment

  • First the skin should be gently dried and then attempts made to remove any of the "spicules" from the skin using adhesive tape, rubber cement or facial peel product.
  • Next, dilute (5%) acetic acid (vinegar) should be soaked over the affected area for 10 to 30 minutes (up to 4 times a day). If vinegar is not available isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is a good second choice.
  • Hydrocortisone cream provides no benefit in the initial care of sea sponge irrigation and in fact could be detrimental if used prior to spicule removal and acetic acid use. After the initial treatment of above, if skin inflammation is noted then hydrocortisone type creams may be applied 2- to times daily to relieve itching Discontinue immediately if any signs of infection appear.
  • Treat itching with diphenhydramine (Benadryl) 25 to 50 mg every 6 hours and ranitidine (Zantac) 150 mg tablet every 12 hours for 3 to 4 days.
  • If the wound shows any evidence of infection, such as redness, pus, increasing pain, foul odor, warmth at the area , or fever, see a health care professional. Antibiotics are usually recommended in cases where infection is present. Some antibiotics can cause an increased sensitivity to the sun, so use a sunscreen (at least SPF 15).
  • Note that dried sponges, not processed commercially, may still cause irritation and symptoms.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine


Auerbach, P. Wilderness Medicine. Chapter 81. 6th ed. United States: Mosby, 2011.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/25/2016
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