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Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Wounded by a Horseshoe Crab


I am a member of a few list groups related to wilderness medicine. One of these is a “venom list,” in which members share interesting observations meant to educate one another. A recent notice called attention to the fact that an unfortunate man had the skin over his abdomen pierced by the tail of a horseshoe crab. He claimed to have developed an infection and persistent burning pain attributed to an infection. The tails are not known to carry any kind of venom, but it is not uncommon for marine spine puncture wounds, such as the “prongs” on a Pacific lobster carapace, to cause pain out of proportion to the magnitude of the puncture wound. It would be interesting to learn if this particular victim had immediate pain, whether or not his wound has been evaluated for a persistent foreign body, and if he has an infection, the nature of the offending germ(s).

Until further notice, if someone is punctured by a marine animal spine, it’s worth a try to immerse the affected area in hot water to tolerance (45 degrees Centigrade or 113 degrees Fahrenheit) to see if that has any beneficial effect on reducing the pain.

photo courtesy of University of Delaware Graduate College of Marine Studies and the Sea Grant College Program

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Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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