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.
Airways and lungs:
Heart and blood:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Generalized cramps
- Pain and swelling of lymph nodes near the area of the sting
- Severe pain at site of sting
Stomach and intestines:
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
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
- Tetanus shot, if necessary
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
If scuba diving or snorkeling, learn to identify potentially poisonous or otherwise dangerous sea creatures and their habits.
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.
- Last reviewed on 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.
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