Symptoms and Signs of Sea Sponge Irritation

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2021

Doctor's Notes on Sea Sponge Irritation

Sea sponge irritation is a condition where humans make direct contact with the sponges (marine invertebrate animals) that contain spicules that can stick into the skin. The irritation can come from the spicules or the animal that contains them. Signs and symptoms of sea sponge irritation start with a stinging, itchy, or prickly sensation. Later, severe itching, burning pain, blisters, and joint swelling may occur. Severe reactions can occur when a large part of the body is exposed. Fever, chills, dizziness, muscle cramps, nausea, and erythema multiforme (target-shaped raised lesions) can develop. Commercially available sponges have had all spicules and living tissue removed. The treated sponge is the animal's skeleton.

The cause of sea sponge irritation is direct contact with spicules or other parts of the sea sponge. The body responds to these items as either a contact sensitivity or as an allergic reaction.

What Are the Treatments for Sea Sponge Irritation?

Sea sponge skin irritation may be treated as follows:

  • Gently dry the affected skin area.
  • Try to remove all the sponge spicules from the skin with adhesive tape, rubber cement, or a facial peel compound.
  • Soak the affected area with vinegar or isopropyl alcohol for about 10-30 minutes four times per day as needed for pain.
  • Treat itching with diphenhydramine and ranitidine.
  • If the skin area is healing (no infection), hydrocortisone cream may be used for itching after the above care has been done.
  • If redness, pus, foul odor, and/or warmth develop, see a medical caregiver immediately. The person may need antibiotics and further wound care.

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