Navigate Up

Full Library - A-Z Index


Print This Page

Stingray

A stingray is a sea animal with a whip-like tail. The tail contains sharp spines that contain venom. This article describes the effects of a stingray sting. Stingrays are the most common group of fish that sting humans.

This is for information only, and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Stingray venom

Where Found

  • Stingrays
  • Related species

Symptoms

Airways and lungs:

  • Breathing difficulty

Heart and blood:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure

Nervous system:

  • Fainting
  • Generalized cramps
  • Headache
  • Paralysis
  • Weakness

Skin:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain and swelling of lymph nodes near the area of the sting
  • Severe pain at site of sting
  • Sweating
  • Swelling

Stomach and intestines:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Home Care

Seek immediate medical attention.

Wash the area with salt water. Remove any foreign material at the wound site. Soak the wound in the hottest water the patient can tolerate for 30 - 90 minutes while contacting your local emergency services.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the marine animal
  • Time of the sting
  • Location of the sting

Poison Control

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

They will instruct you if it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital, and any appropriate first aid that can be administered prior to arrival.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The wound will be soaked in a cleaning solution and any remaining foreign material will be removed. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate, and some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing assistance
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medication (antiserum) to reverse the effect of the venom
  • Medication to treat symptoms
  • X-rays
  • Tetanus shot, if necessary

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outcome often depends on how much poisonous venom entered the body, the location of the sting, and how soon treatment is received. Numbness or tingling may persist for several weeks after the sting. Skin breakdown is sometimes severe enough to require surgical treatment.

A puncture in the patient's chest or abdomen may lead to death

Prevention

If scuba diving or snorkeling, learn to identify potentially poisonous or otherwise dangerous sea creatures and their habits.

References

Isbister GK, Caldicott DG. Trauma and evenomations from marine fauna. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 196.

Auerbach PS. Envenomation by Aquatic Vertebrates. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 81.

Updated: 10/18/2013

Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com