Marine Creature Stings
A number of sea creatures can sting or bite you when swimming in the sea or diving. These include sea anemones, sea urchins, hydroids (similar to jellyfish), stone fish, fireworms, stingrays and jellyfish. But in the UK this list is significantly reduced, with weever fish, sting rays, sea urchins and jellyfish being the only sea life able to cause harm.
Weever fish are small, sandy coloured fish that have poisonous spines on their back and gills, with most people being stung by accidentally stepping on them. Symptoms include itching, swelling, pain, numbness, nausea, headache, abdominal cramps and tremors. If the person has a very serious reaction then these symptoms can progress to shortness of breath, palaysis, seizures and unconsciousness and sometimes even death. Always seek medical advice when stung by a weever fish. Tweezers should be used to remove the sting and immersing the area in hot water should control the pain. Antibiotics can sometimes be prescribed if it is a severe sting.
Sea urchins are small creatures with a shell covered in spines. Between the spines poison can also be released through small organs. The symptoms include tiredness, swelling, aching muscles, respiratory failure and paralysis. In very rare cases death can occur. Medical assistance is only needed when symptoms include breathing problems, chest pain and signs of infection. Sea urchins are treated in the same way as weever fish, with the venemous organs being removed by using shaving cream and gently shaving them out.
Stingrays are flat and diamond shaped fish with a long tail which has a serrated barb underneath. Again, most people are injured by stepping on them. Symptoms include inflammation, sweating, bleeding, nausea, diarrhoea, headache, shortness of breath, seizures and muscle cramps. Deaths are uncommon but in rare cases people have died from a puncture wound to a vital organ. Always seek medical advice when stung by a stingray immediately by alering a lifeguard or calling 999. Stingray stings are again treated with hot water, but it is also important to keep the wound clean.
Jellyfish are mushroom shaped creatures with long, thin tentacles. The tentacles are covered with small poisonous sacs which sting. Symptoms include pain, itching, a rash, nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, muscle spasks, numbness and swollen lymph nodes. In severe cases a sting can result in breathing difficulties, coma or death. If you are stung by a jellyfish it is important to call 999. For Jellyfish stings, the area should be soaked in vingear to stop any more toxin being released. The small sacs can be removed again by using shaving cream and a razor.
When stung by tropical fish on holiday it is always advisable to seek medical attention from the nearest emergency room or alert a life guard.
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