Catfish Sting Facts
- Catfish are a distinctive type of fish that have whiskers protruding from the area around the mouth. They also have external spines near their fins.
- Catfish are often found in muddy rivers, lakes, and on beaches in tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters.
- These fish are not aggressive. People stung by catfish are usually fishing or bathing when they make contact with a catfish, usually by stepping on it or handling the fish after it has been caught.
- Both salt- and fresh-water catfish are dangerous. Each has three spines and a stinging apparatus.
Catfish Sting Symptoms
Severe pain and inflammation occur at the site of the sting.
Catfish Sting Treatment
- Immerse the affected area in water as hot as is tolerable usually relieves pain from a sting.
- Spines should be removed with tweezers.
- The wound should be scrubbed and irrigated with fresh water.
- The wound should not be taped or sewn together.
- Oral antibiotics are usually recommended for catfish stings that become infected. Antibiotics should be taken if infection develops for at least five days after all signs of infection have resolved. Potential drug allergies should be checked prior to starting any antibiotic. A doctor can recommend the appropriate antibiotic. Some antibiotics can cause sensitivity to the sun, so a sunscreen (at least SPF 15) is also recommended for use with such antibiotics.
- Pain associated with a catfish sting may be relieved with one to two acetaminophen (Tylenol) every four hours and/or one to two ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) every six to eight hours.
When to Seek Medical Care for Catfish Stings
- Medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible after a catfish sting.
- A doctor should be consulted about treatment with available medications.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
JAMA.com. Catfish Stings.