”The Big Question”…What Do I Do If I’m Stung?
Disclaimer: This treatment guideline is not meant to replace appropriate professional medical treatment when available. Its focus is to help provide First Aid as a first response before seeking medical treatment when necessary. If you utilize any information provided in this document, you do so at your own risk and you specifically waive any right to make a claim against the authors of this guideline for the results or consequences of any attempt to use, adopt, adapt or modify the information presented in this document.
You’ve probably been wondering this in the back of your mind ever since you decided to read this article, haven’t you? We could go into the mechanics of how the venom is injected, however, this is really more of a lionfish primer, and we’d hate to have you nodding off. That being said, the absolute best advice we can offer is “DON’T GET STUNG!” However, accidents do happen, and what can we say? It’s going to hurt… just how much depends on which species you take the hit from, its size, how much venom is injected, and the time the spine is embedded in your skin.
Lionfish sting treatment
First aid for a lionfish sting is the immersion of the affected area in hot water (114°F) for 20 up to 90 minutes, or until the pain subsides, in order to inactivate the thermolabile components of the venom. The reason for applying heat to the wound is because lionfish venom is composed of heat labile proteins, and the heat actually denatures the venom. Please, don’t use scalding-hot water, as the resulting burn will likely do more damage than the venom. To ensure the proper temperature have a cooking thermometer on hand.
Don’t worry, your life really isn’t in danger from the effects of the venom. That being said, you need to guard against secondary infection of the wound as well as make certain that there are no pieces of the spine left in the wound, which can cause infection. A tetanus booster is recommended if it is past due. To that end, you may want to seek professional medical assistance, just in case.
Fortunately, in over 20 years of keeping venomous fish, neither of us has ever been stung (knock on wood), so we can’t tell you what it feels like. However, we’re not in a hurry to find out, as we’re told it really hurts. One thing that may make lions a bit more dangerous than other scorpionfish in terms of getting poked is the fact that they are very inquisitive, and some of the bolder specimens that become very accustomed to you will swim around the exact spot you’re working in. Tapping these fish lightly on their tails can teach them to mean go to a neutral corner, and they will typically stay there. Could this backfire on us someday? You betcha, however, here are some tips for working in the lion’s lair:
- Always respect the fish, and know where they are at all times when working on the tank. If you happen to be performing a chore that requires a lot of your concentration, you may want to enlist the aid of a spotter to let you know if the fish is nearby (this is a perfect job for young helpers).
- Never make the fish feel threatened or cornered. Perform your work deliberately and in a non-threatening manner. Get to know your fish, and let it get to know you. Lionfish are pretty intelligent and will become accustomed to you working in their box of water.
- Know the warning signs that a lion has gone into a defensive posture. They will typically erect their dorsal spines and assume a head-down position, thus bringing their daggers to bear in the direction of the perceived threat.
Although marine aquarists have been keeping lionfish and their kin for quite a while, it is our hope that this article has piqued your interest in them. They are interactive, peaceful, hardy and disease-resistant fish, each with their own distinct personality, and they are certainly one of the most easily-recognized group of fish you are likely to encounter. Our “Scorp Jones” began with lionfish, and it has been a pleasure sharing our passion for them and giving you a window to their care and habits, as well as other useful information and tips based on practical experience for keeping them successfully. Happy lion-taming, and remember: You’re not in Kansas anymore!