Symptoms and Signs of Sea Cucumber Irritation

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2021

Doctor's Notes on Sea Cucumber Irritation

Sea cucumbers are echinoderms that live in the seabed in temperate to tropical seas. Humans collect them for food. They are shaped like cucumbers with tentacles that circle the mouth and have an irritating toxin in its feces and outer covering, and this toxin can be secreted into the water. Usually, the toxin is diluted so it may only cause a minor skin rash; when undiluted, the toxin can cause a severe rash and cause blindness if it enters the eye. Death has resulted from eating undercooked sea cucumbers.

What Is the Treatment for Sea Cucumber Irritation?

Sea cucumber irritation of the skin is treated as follows:

  • Rinse affected area with seawater; freshwater can increase pain.
  • However, if the eyes are exposed to toxin, rinse them with 1-2 gallons of freshwater or saline immediately.
  • Immerse the affected skin in water as hot as is tolerable for 30-90 minutes, and repeat as needed to reduce pain.
  • Don't rub or apply ice to the area.
  • Apply acetic acid (vinegar) or isopropyl alcohol to the area.

No antidote exists for sea cucumber toxin.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.