Bristleworm sting: What should I do?

The bristleworm is considered as a dangerous species of worm. It is an elongated segmented worm that can grow up to 1 foot in length and each segment has a pair of bristles. They are usually found in tidal waters beneath corals and rocks in tropical regions.

Even though it is not aggressive, a bristleworm might bite if handled and its bristles can puncture the skin. The spines penetrate the skin and can be hard to remove.

What are the signs of a bristleworm sting

Remember that an individual can end up with a bristleworm sting if touched and trigger the following:

  • Burning sensation
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Rashes

The spines do not possess any venom-generating cells, thus there is no possibility for additional venom to be released when the spines are removed.

Bristleworm sting

Pain can be relieved with pain medications that can be taken based on the dosage instructions.

Management of a bristleworm sting

  • The bristles should be removed using an adhesive tape or tweezers. A facial peel can be utilized repeatedly on the spines or a dense coating of rubber cement. When the rubber cement has dried up, peel it away to pull out any leftover spines from the skin.
  • The affected skin should be cleansed carefully to avoid breaking any spines.
  • Once the spines are removed, you can provide relief to the symptoms by applying vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, diluted ammonia or a solution or paste of meat tenderizer.
  • Serious irritation of the skin or other reactions can greatly benefit by applying a topical corticosteroid cream or ointment.
  • If there are signs of infection such as redness, drainage of pus or localized warmth, a doctor should be seen.
  • Oral antibiotics are often prescribed to prevent a secondary bacterial infection.
  • Pain can be relieved with pain medications that can be taken based on the dosage instructions.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a bristleworm sting is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the signs by taking a standard first aid course with Vancouver First Aid.

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