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Wilderness: Scombroid Poisoning

Scombroid Poisoning Overview

Scombroid poisoning typically occurs when people eat certain fish that have been inadequately preserved. These include the spiny-finned fish of the family known as Scombridae. Bacteria that grow during improper storage in the dark meat of the fish produce scombroid toxin. Scombroid is a histaminelike chemical (see Allergic Reaction). The toxin does not affect everyone who ingests it.

No test is 100% reliable for assessing fish for this toxin. Cooking kills the bacteria, but toxins remain in the tissues and can be eaten.

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Susceptible fish include albacore, amberjack, anchovy, Australian salmon, bluefish, bonito, kahawai, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, needlefish, saury, sardine, skipjack, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna. Affected fish may have a metallic or peppery taste.

Scombroid Poisoning Symptoms

Symptoms of scombroid poisoning generally begin 1 hour after ingestion of the poison and include:

Other symptoms may include:

Severe reactions include:

Scombroid Poisoning Treatment

Scombroid poisoning should be treated with diphenhydramine (Benadryl) 25-50 mg every 6 hours and 1 ranitidine (Zantac) tablet twice a day.

When to Seek Medical Care

Seek immediate medical care for a severe or prolonged reaction. Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications.

Synonyms and Keywords

Wilderness: Scombroid Poisoning, albacore, amberjack, anchovy, Australian salmon, bluefish, bonito, kahawai, herring, mackerel, mahi-mahi, needlefish, saury, sardine, skipjack, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, food poisoning

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 02, 2014

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