What to Do If You're Stung by a Scorpionfish or Lionfish (With Photos)
Young children and the elderly, or those with any weakness in the immune system, should seek medical assistance as quickly as possible.
The scorpion fish and lionfish are from the same venomous family of fish. I'd never heard of them until one day when I was unfortunate enough to step on one whilst on holiday in Greece. I was playing around with my daughter on the beach, and as I jumped into an area of wet sand I felt a shooting pain in my foot. It felt a bit like a bee sting, but it quickly began to increase in pain. I can only describe it as someone poking a hot needle into my foot.
There was a fresh water tap just a few meters away, so I quickly hopped over and began to rinse my foot under the tap, at which point I discovered I had been stung. After 10 minutes I made my way to the nearest first aid point, which unfortunately was closed. After hopping around for half an hour or so, however, the pain appeared to subside.
Sadly, that wasn't the end of my experience, and as the evening began to draw in, the pain returned and would stay for a number of days.
What to Do if You're Stung by a Scorpionfish
- Ensure there are no barbs or foreign bodies in the sting area. If possible, remove them with tweasers
- As quickly as possible, rinse/bathe the area in very warm water (as warm as possible without scalding yourself). Salt water is best. Do this for at least 40 minutes as the hot water will help break down the proteins in the venom
- Elevate the wound
- If available, use a steroid and antibiotic cream on the area
Day One: The Day of the Sting
The day after I had been stung, the area became painful and inflammed and so I visited the doctor. He was unsure what had stung me, but advised that there were quite a few venomous fish surrounding the island of Kos. He gave me some cream which contained steriods (for the inflammation) and antibiotics (to prevent infection). He suggested rest and elevation. This was easy for me as the hotel was all-inclusive, and there was a decent supply of Ouzo on tap.
Day Three: The Worst Day
Day three was the worst day of all. By now the area was looking dark red/black, inflamed and was extremely painful to touch or walk on. I had to go on a trip, and whilst there a local man (an old fisherman) on a boat asked me what was wrong with my foot. I showed him and he immediately said "Scorpaenidae!" He showed his friend who said that it was definitely a scorpionfish sting and that I would be okay in four or five days.
I was finding it hard to believe due to the pain, but it gave me hope!
Day Four: Things are Getting Better
On the morning of day four, the pain had began to subside and things were starting to feel better. The bruising and redness had started to reduce, and I was feeling much better.
Day Five: Just an Itch
By day five there was a marked improvement, and I barely remembered I'd been stung. Everything was looking better, and if anything, I just had a slight itch.
Top Tip: Wear Beach Shoes!
Always try to wear some beach shoes when you're in the water with a nice, thick sole. This should prevent you from being stung in the foot by any hidden fish.