Symptoms and Signs of Shark Attack

Doctor's Notes on Shark Attack

Shark attacks are very infrequent; they consist of either one or more bites anywhere on the body. Signs and symptoms vary from a pattern of small parallel cuts to crescent-shaped wounds with massive tissue or limb damage or loss with some having sharks’ teeth left in the wound. Some sharks will bump or scrape the individual before biting. Most wounds from a shark attack should be evaluated by a medical caregiver.

The exact cause of a shark attack is likely the shark’s interpretation of the victim as a food source. Only about 40 of the approximately 400 shark species have documented attacks on people with the great white shark as having the most. Experts suggest any shark bigger than 2 meters (about 6 ft) is potentially dangerous. Sharks can sense blood, avoid the water if bleeding. Do not swim alone or wear shiny objects or brightly contrasting colors or swimming at dawn or dusk or at night when sharks are usually feeding.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.