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First Aid for Lionfish Sting

The lionfish is a venomous fish that blends well amongst the coral reefs or rocky terrains. The fish is covered in prickly spines that carry toxic venom. Lionfish do not attack humans, but are territorial creatures and can inflict painful stings with the release of potent venom.

What is Lionfish Sting?

The lionfish is a venomous fish that blends well amongst the coral reefs or rocky terrains. The fish is covered in prickly spines that carry toxic venom. Lionfish do not attack humans, but are territorial creatures and can inflict painful stings with the release of potent venom.

What are the Causes of Lionfish Sting?

Most common causes of Lionfish Stings include (but are not limited to):

  • Exposure to lionfish in the deep ocean; generally sea divers are at risk
  • Handling lionfish, either alive or dead
  • Keeping them as pets or exhibits in aquaria

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lionfish Sting?

Signs and symptoms of Lionfish Stings vary according to the type of species the individual is exposed to and the amount of toxin injected. The symptoms may be mild or severe and could include:

  • Extremely severe stinging pain
  • Rashes on the skin (red-colored welts), bruising
  • Bleeding and edema, formation of blister
  • Swelling of the wound
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Abnormal heart rate, reduced blood pressure
  • Allergic shock or reaction, in some cases
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Muscle cramps, abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Severe fatigue
  • Unconsciousness

How is First Aid administered for Lionfish Sting?

If a Lionfish Sting (or sting or bite of a marine creature) is suspected, it is always important to call your local emergency helpline number (or 911 in the US) without any delay, and provide as much information as possible, even if the individual does not have any symptoms.

Until medical help arrives:

  • Move the individual away from the water or incident spot
  • Make a note of the exact time of the incident and notify the emergency medical personnel accordingly
  • Try to remove the stinger (if visible), by gently scraping the site using a hard-edged object (either metal or plastic) or a pair of tweezers
  • Use hot water to inactivate any remaining toxin
  • Use pressure to arrest bleeding (if possible)
  • Try to identify or locate the marine animal (only if safely possible) and keep the medical personnel informed
  • DO NOT give anything orally to the individual
  • Unless directed by the physician, DO NOT give any medication

Who should administer First Aid for Lionfish Sting?

The individual himself/herself or someone nearby may begin to administer First Aid. Call your local emergency helpline number or 911 immediately as mentioned before.

What is the Prognosis of Lionfish Sting?

The prognosis of Lionfish Sting is dependent on the potency of the toxin, the severity of reaction, and timely manner in which treatment is administered.

How can Lionfish Sting be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Lionfish Sting include:

  • Avoid making an attempt to touch or handle marine animals unnecessarily, even if they are pets
  • Do not ignore warnings of lifeguards or health officials at the beach
  • Wear protective clothing if you plan to swim or dive in infested areas
  • Generally be aware or watchful of the waters you are in (to the extent possible)
  • Wear protective footwear while walking on beach sand
  • Do not handle dead lionfish, since they can also sting
  • Ensure safety precautions while cleaning marine animal aquariums

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?


  • Call your local emergency helpline number (or 911) for help
  • Remove the victim immediately from the water
  • Wear gloves while removing stingers
  • When in doubt, wash the affected area with seawater and not freshwater
  • If possible, use hot water to repeatedly wash the wound


  • Do not hesitate to call your emergency help services
  • Do not remove stingers without wearing suitable protective hand gloves
  • Do not medicate the individual, unless advised by a healthcare professional
  • Do not move the affected region of the body too much
  • Do not run or exercise which might increase the circulation of toxin in the body
  • Do not elevate the affected area above the heart level, since this can also increase circulation of the toxin

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

National Capital Poison Center (USA)
3201 New Mexico Ave, Suite 310 Washington, DC 20016
Administrative Line: (202) 362-3867
Emergency Line: 1 (800) 222-1222
Fax: (202) 362-8377
Email: pc@poison.org
Website: http://www.poison.org

American Association of Poison Control Centers (USA)
515 King St., Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 894-1858
Email: info@aapcc.org
Website: http://www.aapcc.org

National Poisons Centre (New Zealand)
Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago
PO Box 913 Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Phone: 0800 POISON (0800 764 766)
Website: http://www.poisons.co.nz

NSW Poisons Information Centre (Australia)
Hawkesbury Rd & Hainsworth Street, Westmead NSW 2145, Australia
Phone: +61 13 11 26
Email: nswpoisons@chw.edu.au
Website: https://www.poisonsinfo.nsw.gov.au

British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre (Canada)
Room 0063, BC Centre for Disease Control
655 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4R4 Canada
Phone: (604) 682-5050
Toll-Free: 1 (800) 567-8911
Fax: (604) 707-2807
Website: http://www.capcc.ca

Poisons Information Centre (South Africa)
Room 411, Institute of Child Health
Red Cross Children's Hospital
Klipfontein Road, Rondebosch, 7700, Cape Town South Africa
Phone: +27 21 658 5308
Fax: +27 21  650 4492
Email: poisonsinformation@uct.ac.za
Website: https://www.afritox.co.za

National Poisons Information Service (United Kingdom)
City Hospital Dudley Rd, Birmingham United Kingdom B187QH
Phone: +44 844 892 0111
Fax: +44 121 507 55 88
Email: mail@npis.org
Website: http://www.npis.org

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stings-marine-creatures/pages/treatment.aspx (accessed on 12/23/2015)

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/bites-and-stings-first-aid (accessed on 12/23/2015)

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Aldred, B., Erickson, T., & Lipscomb, J. (1996). Lionfish envenomations in an urban wilderness. Wilderness & environmental medicine, 7(4), 291-296.

Vetrano, S. J., Lebowitz, J. B., & Marcus, S. (2002). Lionfish envenomation. The Journal of emergency medicine, 23(4), 379-382.

Auerbach, P. S., McKinney, H. E., Rees, R. S., & Heggers, J. P. (1987). Analysis of vesicle fluid following the sting of the lionfish Pterois volitans. Toxicon, 25(12), 1350-1353.

Garyfallou, G. T., & Madden, J. F. (1996). Lionfish envenomation. Annals of emergency medicine, 28(4), 456-457.

Patel, M. R., & Wells, S. (1993). Lionfish envenomation of the hand. The Journal of hand surgery, 18(3), 523-525.

Badillo, R. B., Banner, W., Morris Jr, J., & Schaeffer, S. E. (2009, January). A case study of lionfish sting induced paralysis. In Clinical Toxicology (Vol. 47, No. 7, pp. 732-732). 52 VANDERBILT AVE, NEW YORK, NY 10017 USA: INFORMA HEALTHCARE.

Rosson, C. L., & Tolle, S. W. (1989). Management of marine stings and scrapes. Western Journal of Medicine, 150(1), 97.

Satora, L. (2008). Lionfish envenomations in Poland. Przeglad lekarski, 66(6), 285-286.