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Wilderness: Weeverfish Sting

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Weeverfish Sting Overview

Weeverfish are colorful fish that can grow up to 50 cm (1.5 feet) in length. They live in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They are usually found buried in the sand or mud. Weeverfish are aggressive and may strike a scuba diver without warning. Even when dead, weeverfish can cause a serious wound from spines containing neurotoxin venom, which can cause death.

Weeverfish Sting Symptoms

The following symptoms may occur following a weeverfish sting:

  • Severe pain
  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Heat
  • Redness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Joint aches
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tremors 

More severe reactions involve: 

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Episodes of passing out

Death is possible.

Weeverfish Sting Treatment

Treatment for weeverfish stings includes the following steps:

  • Immerse the affected area in water as hot as the person who has been stung can tolerate for 30-90 minutes. Repeat as necessary to control pain.
  • Use tweezers to remove any spines in the wound. Symptoms may not go away until all of the spines have been removed.
  • Scrub the wound with soap and water and then flush extensively with fresh water.
  • Do not cover the wound with tape.
  • Hydrocortisone cream may be applied 2-3 times daily for itching. Discontinue immediately if any signs of infection appear.
  • If signs of infection, such as pus, redness, or heat, occur, apply topical antibiotic ointment (bacitracin) 3 times per day.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be necessary.
  • Oral antibiotics are usually recommended for infection. Continue antibiotics for at least 5 days after all signs of infection have cleared. Inform the doctor of any drug allergy prior to starting any antibiotic. Certain antibiotics cause sensitivity to the sun, so avoid sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wear protective clothing while in the sun, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat, and use a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
  • Pain may be relieved with 1-2 acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 4 hours, 1-2 ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) every 6-8 hours, or both.

When to Seek Medical Care

If stung by a weeverfish, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications.

Synonyms and Keywords

weeverfish sting, weeverfish venom, weever fish sting, fish sting, fish attack, weever fish sting, fish venom, scuba, scuba diving, puncture wound, stings, marine stings

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on April 25, 2014

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