After getting stung by a red lionfish (Pterois volitans), the various symptoms start to develop within a few minutes and you will start to feel pain.
This guide explains why this type of puncture injury happens, what it feels like, and the best treatment for lionfish sting symptoms.
Scuba divers may have encounters with this venomous fish around the tropical reefs of the Indo-Pacific and western Atlantic.
Follow these basic steps if a poisonous lionfish stings you while diving:
Pro Tip: Administer emergency first aid and get a medical evaluation for all serious injuries associated with scuba, especially bites and toxic mechanisms of injection by marine plants and animals.
These voracious predators rank as one of the most invasive fish species in western parts of the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, fishers and recreational divers hunt them and kill them to try and slow the spread of lionfish populations - including culling tournaments in the Caribbean.
The 'cull' means divers will be swimming close to the lionfish's sharp spines. These kinds of penetration injuries are very painful. But, they can also lead to medical complications.
Here's the thing:
An epithelial (external) sheath covers the long, slender spines and contains glands that produce venom. The upper two-thirds of each individual ray or spine is the most toxic.
So, what happens if a fin ray penetrates a diver's skin? Venom will flow into the injury site and most lionfish stings will need urgent medical treatment.
The marine life section contains more lionfish facts, including information about fish species from the genus Pterois (e.g. the turkeyfish and zebra lionfish).
Most recreational scuba divers already understand that the lionfish species (Pterois volitans) is not an 'aggressive' one. Hence, maintaining a prudent distance is enough to prevent bites, cuts, scrapes, and sting injuries.
But, some people do engage in spearfishing or fish culling activities. In this case, it's best to avoid using improvisations and use extra caution if you need to handle these creatures - even if they are dead.
The intense pain that you will experience from a lionfish puncture wound can last for several hours. You may also see rapid swelling (edema) and subcutaneous bleeding. Other manifestations may include:
You can expect the swelling to calm down within a few days. Even so, it could take up to five (5) days for tissue discolorations to clear up.
In some cases, severe swelling may compromise normal blood flow. This may lead to further complications with tissue death (necrosis), especially in the fingertips. We couldn't find any published reports of human deaths from lionfish stings.