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 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.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
"Initial management of animal and human bites"