Are Sea Anemones Poisonous To Humans? Symptoms And Treatment

Sea anemones are marine creatures named after ornately colored anemone flower that they resemble on land. They belong to the same family of jelly fish, sea pens and corals. Sea anemones live deep inside the sea mostly on the ocean floors where they attach themselves to rock, and hard surfaces.

Sea anemones are carnivorous and usually devour small fish and other sea animals which come within the range of their deadly poisonous tentacles. The body is tubular with centrally located mouth that is surrounded by hundreds of tentacles which look like flower petals.

The tentacles can protect the animal from predators and use them to sting or capture them.

Most sea anemones are harmless to humans but some species can sting and produce several unwanted symptoms that can be mild or severe depending on the amount of venom injected, area of the body stung etc. Usually treatment involves removing stings and application of topical antibiotics and use of oral painkillers. Prognosis is normally favorable with this treatment.

Signs And Symptoms Of Sea Anemone Sting

The symptoms of sea anemone sting develop when it injects poisonous chemical through the spine of its tentacles into human beings.

Most sea anemones reside in deep waters. Thus deep sea divers are generally stung by this creature when they brush off with them. Sea anemone may also sting those who walk barefoot on seashore if they accidentally come on the shore from deep sea. But this is very rare. People who keep them as pet in aquarium may get bitten by sea anemone while handling.

The severity of signs and symptoms may depend on several factors such as the type of species, quantity of toxin injected and the immune system of person reacting to the toxin. Following are important signs and symptoms of sea anemone sting.

Mild symptoms:

  • Cut and wounds from the sting is usually on lower limbs and hands.
  • Severe pain after sting.
  • Itching on the affected area which soon spreads to whole body.
  • Local swelling

If the symptoms are severe they may develop as:

  • Breathlessness
  • Pain in chest
  • Severe weakness
  • Severe pain in muscles.
  • Sweating and watery discharge from nose.
  • Spasm of paralysis of respiratory muscles.

In some patients the reaction of sting can be very serious. It may cause anaphylaxis reaction which can be life threatening. The area around sting can cause secondary bacterial infection. Blistering and scarring of the area may occur after resolution.

How To Treat Sea Anemone Sting?

The treatment after sea anemone sting is as follows;

  • Removing stings and spine. Gently the spine and stingers are removed with tweezers taking all care to avoid breakage of the spines.
  • Clean the affected site with salt water or sea water.
  • If nothing is available at the site rub the area with sand for detaching the stingers.
  • Wash the area with soap water.
  • Apply local steroid cream to alleviate pain, swelling and itching.
  • Use antibacterial ointment to prevent secondary infection at the site.
  • Washing the area with vinegar solution is also beneficial.
  • Patient should be given tetanus vaccine.
  • In severe form of sea anemone sting, patient may need hospitalization.

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