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Wilderness: Scorpionfish, Lionfish, and Stonefish Poisoning


Scorpionfish, lionfish, and stonefish are all poisonous fish that live in tropical and temperate oceans, especially the Red Sea and Indian and Pacific Oceans. They have erectile spines on their dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. Because these fish are not aggressive, contact with them and the poisonings that result are usually accidental.

Contact with ornate lionfish causes mild poisoning. Contact with camouflaged scorpionfish causes moderate-to-severe poisoning. The motionless stonefish, when contacted, causes severe -to -life-threatening poisoning.


Symptoms of poisoning include:

  • Intense throbbing pain that peaks in 1-2 hours and lasts 12 hours.
  • Redness, bruising, swelling, numbness, tingling, and tissue shedding at the wound site

Severe reactions include:

Severe poisoning can result in death.


Respond to potential poisoning with the following actions:

  • Remove the exposed person from the water to prevent drowning.
  • Immerse the wound for 30-90 minutes in water as hot as the poisoned person can tolerate. Repeat as necessary to control pain.
  • Use tweezers to remove any spines in the wound.
  • Scrub the wound with soap and water. Then flush the affected area with fresh water.
  • Do not apply tape to close the wound.

When to Seek Medical Care

All cases of scorpionfish, lionfish, and stonefish poisoning require medical attention to ensure no foreign material remains in the wound. Antivenom is given, especially for stonefish poisoning.

Synonyms and Keywords

Wilderness: Scorpionfish, Lionfish, and Stonefish Poisoning, poisonous fish, scorpion fish, sea scorpion, stone fish,lion fish, lion-fish,turkey fish, fire-fish,marine bite, fish poisoning, fish venom, venomous fish

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 05, 2014

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