What are marine toxins?
Marine toxins are chemicals
and bacteria that can contaminate certain types of seafood. Eating the seafood
may result in
food poisoning. The seafood may look, smell, and taste
normal. There are five common types of marine toxins, and they all cause
Food poisoning through marine toxins is rare.
Every year, about 30 cases are reported to health authorities. But because
milder cases are often not reported, the incidence may be greater. Marine toxin
poisoning occurs most often in the summer.
How is marine toxin poisoning diagnosed and treated?
Your doctor will do a medical history and a physical exam
and ask you questions about your symptoms and any fish you have recently eaten.
Laboratory testing is typically not needed.
There are no specific
treatments for marine toxin poisoning. Treatment generally consists of managing
complications and being supportive until the illness passes.
Dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting is the
most common complication.
To prevent dehydration, take
frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large,
loose stool you have. Soda
and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important
electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they
should not be used to rehydrate.
Try to stay with your normal diet
as much as possible. Eating your usual diet will help you to get enough
nutrition. Doctors believe that eating a normal diet will also help you feel
better faster. But try to avoid foods that are high in fat and sugar. Also
avoid spicy foods, alcohol, and coffee for 2 days after all symptoms have
How can I prevent marine toxin poisoning?
keep seafood refrigerated or on ice. If you have a
weak immune system, you should consider not eating raw
To help avoid marine toxins:
- Do not eat barracuda, especially if it is from
the Caribbean Sea.
- Refrigerate fresh tuna, mackerel, grouper and mahimahi. Remember that cooking does not destroy the toxins in spoiled or toxic seafood.
- Check with health officials about local
advisories on algae blooms, dinoflagellate growth, or red tide.
not eat fish or shellfish sold as bait. These products do not have to meet the
same standards as seafood for eating.
What are the types of marine toxin poisoning?
Scombrotoxic fish poisoning:
- Is caused by bacteria. The bacteria may produce
a chemical (histamine) that results in the food poisoning.
usually found in finfish such as tuna, mackerel, and bonito.
symptoms within 2 minutes to 2 hours of eating the fish. The most common
symptoms are rash, diarrhea, flushing, sweating, headache, and vomiting.
Burning or swelling of the mouth, stomach pain, and a metallic taste may also
occur. Most people have mild symptoms that are gone within a few hours. In
epinephrine may be needed.
- Cooking does
not destroy the chemical, so buy your fish from a good source.