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After you have been out catching lionfish long enough chances are you will get stung. Lets not forget that there is a reason nothing on the reef eats them. If you get stung, the first thing to remember is not to panic! Make sure you notify your buddy and make a safe trip to the surface. Remember you will not likely die from a sting but you can from an air emblosis. Lionfish have 18 venom covered spines that if they puncture deep enough into your skin will cause a painful injury for up to 24 hours. Everyone has different reactions to toxins so if in doubt call 911 or go to your local ER.

What to do once stung

Notify and Surface

The pain will not come on right away. After saying a few choice words in your regulator, Notify your dive buddy that you have been stung using the correct hand signal which is your finger in the shape of a gun pointing at the injury. Next give the thumbs up signal to immediately abort the dive. Remember to surface safely. The time spent in a decompression chamber will be much worse then the sting! Once on the surface get to a boat or land to start treatment.

Remove the Spines

Carefully remove the spines and be careful not to get stuck again. Make sure you get all of the spine out. Any spine bits left behind can cause an infection.

Stop any Bleeding & Clean

While it is true that all bleeding stops eventually, in this case you want to apply direct pressure with a clean dressing or towel until the bleeding stops. Once the bleeding stops make sure to rinse the area well with clean fresh water to avoid infection. Once that is complete use an antibiotic ointment over the punture sites.

Relieve Pain with hot water

Lionfish venom is protien based so even though it will swell do not put ice on it. Heat will break down the venom and help to relieve the pain. immerse the injured area in water as hot as the victim can stand for at least 30 minutes. If no hot water is available a heat pack can be used. Now is a good time to add one to your first aid kit! If you can take over the counter pain relievers (NSAIDS), there is no time like the present to take them.

Get Medical Attention

We at Reef Medics highly advise you seek medical attention after a sting. While most people will just have several hours of pain, serious effects can happen. Not to mention they will likely take pity on you and give you better pain meds. Some serious effects of a sting include but are not limited to:

  • Serious allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock)
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Respitory Failure
  • Paralysis
  • Severe infections from missed pieces of spine
  • Death
  • Tissue Necrosis
  • Any one that has a compromised immune system can have a very negative reaction to venom

Please remember this is not a medical site and we are not doctors. If you are ever in doubt call 911 and get medical attention! Do not wait! No embarssment of going in for a seemingly minor sting can equal possible death if you do not. To sum up, seek medical attention.