Marine animal stings or bites

Alternative names
Stings - marine animals; Bites - marine animals

This injury is described as a poisonous bite or sting from any form of marine life.


  • The majority of these types of stings occur in salt water.  
  • Some types of marine stings or bites can be deadly.

Causes include bites or stings from various types of marine life including: jellyfish, Portuguese Man-of-War, stingray, stonefish, scorpion fish, catfish, sea urchins, sea anemone, hydroid, coral, cone shell, moray eels, sharks, barracudas, and electric eels.


  • Localized symptoms       o Pain       o Burning       o Swelling       o Redness       o Laceration, bleeding  
  • Generalized symptoms       o Groin pain, armpit pain       o Cramps       o Fever       o Sweating       o Weakness, faintness, dizziness       o Nausea or vomiting       o Diarrhea       o Difficulty breathing       o Paralysis

First Aid

  • Keep the victim quiet and still.  
  • Wear gloves, if possible when removing stingers.  
  • Wipe off stingers or tentacles with a towel.  
  • Wash the area with salt water.  
  • Soak the wound in as hot of water as the patient can tolerate for 30-90 minutes, if instructed to do so by trained personnel.  
  • For some types of stings/bites, you may be instructed to apply vinegar or a meat tenderizer/water solution to neutralize the venom.

Do Not

  • DO NOT attempt to remove stingers without protecting your own hands.  
  • DO NOT raise the affected body part above the level of the heart.  
  • DO NOT allow the victim to exercise.  
  • DO NOT give any medication, unless told to do so by a physician.

Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if

  • The victim has generalized symptoms.  
  • The victim has difficulty breathing.  
  • There is uncontrollable bleeding.


  • Swim near a lifeguard.  
  • Observe posted signs that may warn of danger from jellyfish or other hazardous marine life.  
  • Do not touch unfamiliar marine life. Even dead animals or severed tentacles may contain poisonous venom.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Levon Ter-Markosyan, D.M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.