Beware the catfish

In case the noodling post hasn’t already made you afraid of getting in the water, here is yet another thing to worry about with regards to catfish. Catfish have multiple spines, and if you weren’t aware of that already then you’ll definitely be surprised that you can also receive a clinically significant envenomation syndrome from a sting. In fact, references show that the majority of marine and freshwater envenomations are due to catfish. Symptoms include spreading pain, muscle spasms, sweating, and wound blanching. Even if you aren’t envenomated, it still hurts like crazy.

This paper from Brazil looked at 127 catfish injuries over 8 years. Ignoring the painfully obvious error in the abstract (poison≠venom), the authors did a good job of describing catfish injuries and envenomations. I consider the error to be due to nuances in translation.

Unsurprising for an injury caused by a spine, >90% were punctures. Also not surprising, 88% of the victims were fishing when they received the injuries. The rest were during swimming or walking on the beach.

As with other marine stings, such as those caused by stingrays and jellyfish, 45-50ºC water is the agent of choice for symptom control. Strangely enough, the most common treatment those studied received was “nothing”, followed by “bathing in urine”. Suffice it to say that neither of those are very effective. Hot water was given to slightly more than 20% and was effective when given (data not shown though).

The importance of identifying foreign bodies and secondary infections is stressed as well. I also think this is the only paper I’ve ever read that leaves out the life saving significance of the tetanus vaccine after an injury. It’s actually kind of refreshing. In all a decent article about something many are unaware of.

Haddad V Jr, Martins IA. Frequency and gravity of human envenomations caused by marine catfish (suborder siluroidei): a clinical and epidemiological study. Toxicon. 2006 Jun 15;47(8):838-43. [PMID 16713609]

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EBM Gone Wild

Wilderness Medicine

Emergency physician with interests in wilderness and prehospital medicine. Medical Director of the Texas State Aquarium, Padre Island National Seashore, Robstown EMS, and Code 3 ER | EBM gone Wild | @EBMGoneWild |

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