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Marine Animal Bite or Sting


A marine animal bite or sting happens when you are poisoned or bitten by an animal that lives in salt water. Marine animals that bite include barracudas, moray eels, and sharks. Portuguese man-of-war, jellyfish, and sea anemones are some of the animals that inject poison through their tentacles when they come in contact with a person's skin. Broken tentacles can still sting for weeks or months after being separated from the animal, even if they are dried. Stingrays and sea urchins are some of the other marine animals that sting using their spines and barbs.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Anti-venom: This medicine may be given to fight the poison you received from the marine animal.
  • Immune globulins: This medicine is given as a shot or an IV infusion to make your immune system stronger. You may need immune globulins to treat or prevent an infection. It is also used when you have a chronic condition, such as lupus or arthritis. You may need many weeks of treatment. Each infusion can take from 2 to 5 hours.
  • Medicines to treat pain, swelling, or fever: These medicines are safe for most people to use. However, they can cause serious problems when used by people with certain medical conditions. Tell healthcare providers if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of bleeding in your stomach.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Steroids: This medicine may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • Td vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent tetanus and diphtheria. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.


You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give healthcare providers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a simple test that looks inside of your body. Sound waves are used to show pictures of your organs and tissues on a TV-like screen.
  • Wound culture: This is a method to grow and identify the germs that may be in your wound. This helps healthcare providers learn what kind of infection you have and what medicine is best used to treat it.
  • X-ray: This is a picture of your bones and tissues in the wound area. Healthcare providers use these pictures to look for broken bones or objects such as spines or teeth. You may need to have an x-ray, especially if the wound is near a joint or bone.

Treatment options:

You may have any of the following:

  • Wound cleaning: Pieces of teeth, tentacles, or spine left inside the skin will be removed carefully. The skin may also be placed in hot, non-scalding water for some time. The wound will be cleaned with soap, water, and antibacterial solutions. This helps wash away germs which got into the wound, and decrease the chances of infection. Flushing with water further cleans the wound. Objects, dirt, or dead tissues from the open wound will be removed through surgical cleaning. Healthcare providers may drain the wound to clean out pus.
  • Respiratory support:
    • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
    • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.
  • Surgery: Your wound may be left open until it heals or closed using stitches. You may need surgery to repair a broken bone or damaged joint, tendon, or nerve. Surgery to rebuild or remove the body part with the bite wound may be also be done.
  • Blood transfusion: You will get whole or parts of blood through an IV during a transfusion. Blood is tested for diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, to be sure it is safe.


There is a risk of severe loss of blood and tissues. Medicines to treat a marine animal bite or sting may cause nausea, vomiting, or stomach ulcers. You may develop soreness, redness, or swelling where tetanus shots were given. Untreated marine bites or stings may lead to more serious problems, such as infections and severe allergic reactions. Severe allergic reactions may cause life-threatening problems such as irregular heartbeats, breathing problems, or coma.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Marine Animal Bite or Sting (Inpatient Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.