Scorpion fish sting
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Scorpion fish are members of the family Scorpaenidae, which includes lionfish and stonefish. The fins of these prickly fish carry poisonous venom. This article describes the effects of a sting from such fish.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Scorpion fish live in tropical waters, including the warm shorelines of the coastal United States. They are also considered prized aquarium fish and thus are found worldwide.
A scorpion fish sting causes intense pain and swelling at the site of the sting. Swelling can spread to affect an entire arm or leg within minutes.
Other symptoms can include:
- Blood pressure changes -- may be high or low
- Heart rate changes -- may be fast or slow
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
Seek immediate medical attention.
Wash the area with warm water if possible. Soak the wound in the hottest water the person can tolerate for 30 to 90 minutes while seeking medical attention.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
- Patient's age, weight, and condition
- Time of the sting
Poison Control, or a local emergency number
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to expect at the emergency room
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
The wound will be soaked in a cleaning solution and any remaining foreign material will be removed. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate.
The patient may also receive:
- Antibiotics, if necessary
- Life support (blood pressure, circulation, breathing), if necessary
- Pain medication
- Tetanus shot, if necessary
How well a person does often depends on how much poisonous venom entered the body and how soon treatment is received.
Auerbach PS. Evenomation by aquatic vertebrates. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 74.
Simon B, Hern HG Jr. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 56.
Isbister GK, Caldicott DG. Trauma and evenomations from marine fauna. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 196.
- Last reviewed on 12/15/2011
- Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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