Marine Animal Bite

  • Medical Author: Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
  • Medical Editor: Ivette Motola, MD
  • Medical Editor: Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
  • Medical Editor: James Kimo Takayesu, MD

Marine Animal Bite Facts

  • Fish and other marine animals can bite and cause cuts, scrapes, and punctures.
  • A person who is attacked or bitten should attempt to identify the type of fish or animal, the time of the injury, and the nature of the attack.
  • Bites or puncture wounds to the hand, wrist, foot, or joint are very dangerous and require immediate medical attention.
  • Ocean bacteria are particularly dangerous. Infections often occur. Local wound infection may develop in as few as 24 hours.

Marine Animal Bite Symptoms

Signs of infection include

  • warmth,
  • pus,
  • red streaks,
  • a foul odor,
  • lymph node swelling,
  • pain with joint movement, and
  • fever.

Marine Animal Bite Treatment

  • All bite wounds require immediate thorough cleansing with plenty of fresh tap water. Gently scrub the wound with soap and water to remove foreign material. If a syringe is available, it should be used to provide high-pressure irrigation. Remove dead tissue with a sterile scissors or scalpel.
  • After cleansing, apply a topical bacitracin ointment 3 times per day.
  • Wounded extremities should be immobilized and elevated.
  • Puncture wounds and bites are usually not sutured (stitched) unless they involve the face.
  • Oral antibiotics are usually recommended to prevent infection. If infection develops, continue antibiotics for at least 5 days after all signs of infection have cleared. Check for drug allergy prior to starting any antibiotic. A doctor can recommend the right antibiotic. Some antibiotics can cause increased sensitivity to the sun, so use a sunscreen (at least SPF 15).
  • Relieve pain with 1-2 tablets of acetaminophen (Tylenol) 325-500 mg pain relievers every 4 hours and/or 1-2 tablets of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) 200 mg every 6-8 hours.

When to Seek Medical Care for Marine Animal Bites

  • All but the mildest bite wounds require prompt medical attention.
  • Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications.


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Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine


"Initial management of animal and human bites"