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Marine animal stings or bites

Definition

Marine animal stings or bites refer to poisonous bites or stings from any form of sea life, including jellyfish.

Alternative Names

Stings - marine animals; Bites - marine animals

Considerations

The majority of these types of stings occur in salt water. Some types of marine stings or bites can be deadly.

Causes

Causes include bites or stings from various types of marine life including: jellyfish, Portuguese Man-of-War, stingray, stonefish, scorpion fish, catfish, sea urchins, sea anemone, hydroid, coral, cone shell, sharks, barracudas, and moray or electric eels.

Symptoms

There may be pain, burning, swelling, redness, or bleeding near the area of the bite or sting. Other symptoms can affect the entire body, and may include:

First Aid

  • Wear gloves, if possible, when removing stingers.
  • Wipe off stingers or tentacles with a towel.
  • Wash the area with salt water.
  • Soak the wound in as hot of water as the patient can tolerate for 30 - 90 minutes, if told to do so by trained personnel.
  • Jellyfish stings should be immediately rinsed with vinegar.
  • Fish stings should be immediately rinsed with hot water.
  • For other types of stings/bites, you may be told to apply vinegar or a meat tenderizer/water solution to neutralize the venom.

Do Not

  • Do NOT attempt to remove stingers without protecting your own hands.
  • Do NOT raise the affected body part above the level of the heart.
  • Do NOT allow the patient to exercise.
  • Do NOT give any medication, unless told to do so by a health care provider.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

Seek medical help (call 911 or your local emergency number) if the person has difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, or uncontrolled bleeding, if the sting site develops swelling or discoloration, or for other body-wide (generalized) symptoms.

Prevention

  • Swim near a lifeguard.
  • Observe posted signs that may warn of danger from jellyfish or other hazardous marine life.
  • Do not touch unfamiliar marine life. Even dead animals or severed tentacles may contain poisonous venom.

References

Otten EJ. Venomous animal injuries. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 59.


Review Date: 1/8/2012
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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