Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Marine Toxins

Font Size

Topic Overview


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.
  • Is usually found in finfish such as tuna, mackerel, and bonito.
  • Causes 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 severe cases, antihistamines or epinephrine may be needed.
  • Cooking does not destroy the chemical, so buy your fish from a good source.

Ciguatera poisoning:

  • Is caused by ciguatoxins, which are produced by tiny sea plants called dinoflagellates.
  • Is usually found in tropical reef fish (such as barracuda) that kill other fish. But it may be found in grouper, sea bass, snapper, mullet, and other fish living in tropical waters. Common locations for these fish are the reefs surrounding Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam and other South Pacific Islands.
  • Causes symptoms within a few minutes to 30 hours. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, excessive sweating, headache, and muscle aches. A feeling of burning and "pins and needles" as well as weakness, itching, and dizziness can occur. You may also experience unusual taste sensations, nightmares, and hallucinations. Symptoms usually are over in 1 to 4 weeks.
  • Cooking does not destroy the toxins, so buy your fish from a good source.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning:

  • Is caused by a dinoflagellate, although not the same one that causes ciguatera poisoning. These dinoflagellates have a red-brown color and in large numbers can cause a red streak called "red tide" in the ocean.
  • Is usually found in shellfish in colder coastal waters, such as the Pacific Northwest and New England. Shellfish that have caused the condition include mussels, cockles, clams, scallops, oysters, crabs, and lobsters.
  • Usually causes symptoms within 2 hours of eating the shellfish, although symptoms may occur within 15 minutes or after as long as 10 hours. Symptoms usually begin with numbness or tingling in the face, arms, and legs, followed by headache, dizziness, nausea, and loss of coordination. Symptoms are usually mild, although severe symptoms have occurred.
  • Cooking does not destroy the toxins, so buy your fish from a good source.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.