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Pufferfish Poisoning

Pufferfish Poisoning Overview

The poison found in pufferfish, blowfish, balloon fish, toads, sunfish, porcupine fish, toadfish, globefish, and swellfish is a tetrodotoxin. This is one of the most toxic poisons found in nature. Most people who eat pufferfish do so intentionally as pufferfish are considered an Asian delicacy, served in some types of sushi and sashimi. Unless the chef is specially trained to cut the meat in a particular fashion, however, the dish may contain a large amount of the toxin. Pufferfish poisoning is similar to paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Pufferfish Poisoning Symptoms

  • Symptoms generally occur 10-45 minutes after eating the pufferfish poison and begin with numbness and tingling around the mouth, salivation, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Symptoms may progress to paralysis, loss of consciousness, and respiratory failure, and can lead to death.

Pufferfish Poisoning Treatment

  • Vomiting should be induced if the poisoned person is awake and alert and has eaten the fish within 3 hours.
  • The person may become paralyzed. Artificial respirations may keep the person alive until medical attention in a hospital's emergency department is possible.
  • Rapidly turn the person onto his or her side if vomiting occurs.

When to Seek Medical Care

Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American board of Surgery


MedscapeReference. Tetrodotoxin Toxicity.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/22/2014
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