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Marine animal stings or bites
Marine animal stings or bites refer to poisonous bites or stings from any form of sea life, including jellyfish.
Stings - marine animals; Bites - marine animals
The majority of these types of stings occur in salt water. Some types of marine stings or bites can be deadly.
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.
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:
- 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 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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
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.
- 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.
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.
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.