Venomous fishes are found in a broad range of habitats throughout Australia. They are capable of causing painful stings if the skin is penetrated by their fin spines and venom is introduced to the wound.
The most dangerous venomous fishes include stingrays, eeltail catfishes, stonefish, bullrout, scorpionfishes, scats and rabbitfishes, all of which are common in coastal waters.
Stings from venomous fishes
The severity of pain from fish stings can vary greatly, depending on the species involved, the number of spines involved, the depth of penetration, the amount of venom entering the wound, and individual tolerance to the venom.
Victims of fish stings should leave the water and cease responsibility for operating any potentially dangerous plant and equipment. The affected area should be rested and elevated.
For fish stings, accepted procedure for first aid is immersion of the affected limb in water as hot as can be tolerated, taking care not to scald the area. An unaffected limb should always be used to test the temperature of the water. Hot water treatment will give almost immediate relief of pain for minor stings. However, medical attention should be sought in severe cases to further manage pain, prevent infection, and check for the presence of broken spines in the wound.
For instances involving penetration by stingray barbs, there is the additional risk of severe blood loss and puncture of vital organs. In such cases medical attention should be sought at the earliest available opportunity.
Stings from stonefish can have very serious medical implications. Medical assistance should be obtained if this species is thought to have been responsible for a sting.
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