The sting of a lionfish can vary widely depending on the penetration of the spine, number of spines, and differences in the person being stung. Some people have reported mild discomfort, usually because of a sting where the spine did not penetrate deeply and release much of the toxin, but for most people and in most cases the result is the same, it hurts a lot. Prevention is key, the best solution is to wear puncture resistant gloves and take great care in handling the lionfish. Not all of the lionfish spines carry the venom. The 13 dorsal spines (along the top), 3 anal spines, and 2 pelvic spines are able to envenomate the diver.
The venom is contained in glandular tissue along the length of the spine and wicks toward the tip beneath the sheath around the spine. When the spine sticks a person, the venom is carried up the spine and into the person’s skin.
The lionfish venom contains proteins which are heat-sensitive, which prevent the venom from being carried through the bloodstream and also make heat the best first aid to provide a sting victim. If you’ve been stung, first ensure that the spine has been removed and there is none left in the wound site. The next course of action is to immerse the site of the sting in hot water of 110-114 Fahrenheit. Be careful not to burn the victim with water that is too hot; make sure to test the water first. If hot water is not immediately available on the boat, exhaust water from an engine can be used as well as hot compresses over the area. Click here to see the portable heating devices that are available for treating lionfish stings. It will usually take 20-30 minutes for the pain to subside. Common symptoms of a lionfish sting are intense throbbing, sharp pain, tingling sensations, sweatiness, blistering, and swelling.
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