Monday, September 26, 2016

The Sting Of Googling Sea Urchins

Earlier this year, my wife and I went on our honeymoon to Hawaii. I'm often asked what we did while we were there. The answer is, we did a lot. We kayaked, snorkeled, we swam. And, in my case, I read.

I read articles on sea urchins. Many, many articles on sea urchins, and whether they are poisonous.

I became concerned after I was stung by a sea urchin -- nature's Koosh ball -- at one of the beaches we visited. Deeply, deeply concerned.

I made contact with the sea urchin while snorkeling. I was reaching for a ledge by the shore to steady myself when I accidentally set the palm of my left hand on the urchin.

I let out a curse word. No one heard it, except for maybe a couple of sea turtles and a clownfish that were nearby. And I said it while underwater, so it was muffled anyway. It came out as, "Fmmmmmk!"

I only felt the sting for five minutes or so. The pinching sensation went away after that. I didn't really think much of it after my wife and I left the beach.

But that night, as I lay on the couch in our hotel room, I thought back to my encounter with the sea urchin, and I examined my palm. Should I be concerned that I was stung? I wondered. Is a sea urchin sting harmful to my health? I better Google it, just to be safe.

Here's what I learned: It is not safe to Google it. It only leads to more confusion.

I searched the question, "Are sea urchins poisonous?" There were 87,200 results. I read approximately 65,532 of them.

I started with result #1. "Physical injuries from the spines of most sea urchins are possible, but only a few urchins are venomous," it stated. That was somewhat reassuring.

This was the headline for result #2: "Are Sea Urchin Spines Venomous? Yup!" That was not at all reassuring. Was the sting of the headline more painful than the sting of the sea urchin? Yup!

I dove deeper into the results, link by link, page by page. I discovered a published study on sea urchin toxin that was 67 pages long. Sixty-seven. If I was on my own on this honeymoon, it would have been reasonable for me to read it, but I now had a wife to consider. We hadn't blocked out much time in our itinerary for sea urchin research.

I decided to instead focus my attention on much shorter articles. After several hours of clicking and clicking, I passed out on the couch around 3 a.m. I was exhausted. Perhaps a side effect of the sea urchin sting?

The last thing I remember from that night was my skimming treatment tips from a doctor in Kansas City. (What, you don't seek medical advice on dangerous sea creatures from health professionals in the Midwest?)

The good news is that the next day I woke up and felt great. I'd recovered from the sea urchin and Google. I was relieved.

Not too long ago, my wife and I were dining at a seafood restaurant and the waiter informed us of the special of the day: sea urchin pasta. I told him I'd need a few more minutes to decide. I pulled out my phone. I Googled, "Are sea urchin pastas poisonous?" I began to click.