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Wilderness: Pufferfish Poisoning

Pufferfish Poisoning Overview

The poison found in pufferfish, blowfish, balloon fish, toads, sunfish, porcupine fish, toadfish, globefish, and swellfish is a tetrodotoxin. This is one of the most toxic poisons found in nature. Most people who eat pufferfish do so intentionally; pufferfish are considered an Asian delicacy, served in some types of sushi and sashimi. Unless the chef is specially trained to cut the meat in a particular fashion, the dish may contain a large amount of the toxin. Pufferfish poisoning is similar to paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Pufferfish Poisoning Symptoms

  • Symptoms generally occur 10-45 minutes after eating the pufferfish poison and begin with numbness and tingling around the mouth, salivation, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Symptoms may progress to paralysis, loss of consciousness, and respiratory failure and can lead to death.

Pufferfish Poisoning Treatment

  • Vomiting should be induced if the poisoned person is awake and alert and has eaten the fish within 3 hours.
  • The person may become paralyzed. Artificial respirations may keep the person alive until medical attention in a hospital's emergency department is possible.
  • Rapidly turn the person onto his or her side if vomiting occurs.

When to Seek Medical Care

Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Synonyms and Keywords

wilderness: pufferfish poisoning, puffer fish poison, puffer fish toxin, pufferfish toxin, tetrodotoxin, poison, poisoning, blue-ringed octopus bite, food poisoning, fish poisoning

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on May 06, 2014

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