The lionfish problem is rather complex, to say the least, for marine life and now increasingly for scuba divers.
They are considered a major threat to marine life along the US. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Coast lines. As most if us know, these fish are viscous predators with no known predators here and they are killing off native fish and crustaceans at an alarming rate. Lionfsh are indigenous in the indo-pacific. However, hey are very popular aquarium fish and it and it is believed that they appeared US coastal waters due to folks dumping their aquariums in to the ocean.
See the following link to get an idea of how fast and far they have spread since 1985. Click here
The vast numbers of lionfish are becoming potential problems for anyone coming into contact with their stinging spines. This includes scuba divers as well as casual beach-goers.
Recently a diver was injured by a lionfish by inadvertently kicking one. The incident left his leg covered in blisters as described in the following video clip from weartv.com.
Lionfish are a threat to marine life and to divers as well. Lionfish have venomous spines which cause painful wounds. With the lionfish population increasing, the odds of getting stung increases as well. Recreational divers frequenting areas with lionfish are at risk for not only being stung once, but repeatedly. This is true for commercial divers as well, as the lionfish population is well established in the gulf region where a great deal of commercial diving takes place. Initial exposure to the toxins from a lionfish sting will produce a very painful injury, and often there will be a mild localized or systemic allergic reaction associated with the sting.
Signs and symptoms
Redness, bruising, swelling
Prevention is the best treatment. Stay aware of your surroundings and remember lionfish can sting after they are dead. Have the supplies you need to care for a sting and should one occur get the person out of the water and treat the injury.
Wear Gloves! Personal safety is the highest priority
Administer pain medications
Administer Benadryl for mild allergic reactions
Immerse the wound in water as hot as the person can tolerate for 30 – 60 minutes and repeat as necessary as the toxins are neutralized by heat
Use forceps to remove pieces of spines and be careful not to squeeze the venom gland that may have broken off with the spine
Clean with soap and water
Apply antibiotic ointment
Cover loosely with gauze to prevent contamination
Do not tightly close the wound until evaluated by a physician
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