Fish Poisoning – Symptoms Treatment Prevention

Fish Poisoning-Symptoms Treatment Prevention

Food poisoning occurs due to the consumption of food which contains harmful micro-organisms that produce toxins. Likewise, fish poisoning occurs by the consumption of fish (even well-cooked) which particularly contains harmful biotoxins like scromboid, ciguatera & tetrodotoxin etc. These toxins even though survive in well-cooked fishes like shellfish and various species of fishes. The internal organs of fish, contains too much concentrated poison. So, one must avoid to eat those part of fish.

Scromboid Poisoning- Common Fish Poisoning

Scromboid poisoning also known as histamine poisoning and scrombotoxin. A form of fish poisoning which mostly exist in temperate and tropical waters. Scromboid toxin formed during bacterial decay of fish. This fish contains high levels of histamine due to inadequate refrigeration & preservation. The bacteria convert histidine into histamine which leads to scromboid poisoning. The fish most often responsible for this poisoning includes tuna, mahi-mahi, marlin, bluefish, amberjack, abalone & mackerel etc.


How to prevent these species from scromboid poisoning? A fishermen must keep these fishes at no more than 40 degree F in a fridge which is the reliable temperature for these fishes. The scromboid poisoning can’t be easily detectable in fish but if fish taste peppery or burning then it could be toxic.

Its symptoms generally appears with in min to an hour after consuming it. These symptoms may continue for 3hours- several days. The common symptoms include

  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea, Vomiting & Diarrhea
  • Hives & itching of skin
  • Throbbing headache
  • Wheezing & shortness of breathe
  • Rashes on face
  • Tingling & burning sensation in mouth

More severe symptoms are tongue and mouth swelling, blurred vision & feeling trouble in breathing etc. These symptoms generally resolve within 12h but if we move towards its treatment then it   includes anti-histamine such as diphenhydramine and cimetidine.

Ciguatera poisoning- A rare disorder


Ciguatera poisoning caused by ciguatera toxin. This toxin produced by a type of algae (dinoflagellate Gamabierdiscus toxicus) that inhabits low-lying tropical shore areas & coral reefs. The larger fish feeds on small plants like coral reefs get contaminated by ciguatera toxin. After eaten by humans. Thus toxin accumulates in their body and ultimately causes ciguatera poisoning. Thus, ciguatera poisoning is in the food chain of larger fishes such as grouper, barracuda, snapper etc.  So avoid eating it. The greater risk particularly found in the Reef fish which lives in tropical & sub-tropical waters of Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean & West Indies.

In USA, cases have been reported in Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico & Florida etc. One report claims that about 10000-50,000 people who lives in tropical and sub-tropical area suffers per year from ciguatera food poisoning. More than 400 species of Reef fish are thought to contain toxin for ciguatera poisoning.

Now let’s discuss about the symptoms which appears after ciguatera poisoning. It’s symptoms generally appears between a few min-6h after consuming it. It’s symptom include a variety of GIT, neurological & CVD abnormalities. The symptoms of ciguatera poisoning are as follows

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Tingling & numbness in mouth
  • Hot-cold reversal( a symptom in which hot thing feel cold and cold thing feel hot)

Tetrodotoxin-A rare form of fish poisoning

Tetrodotoxin poisoning also known as puffer fish poisoning or fugu poisoning, a rare form of fish poisoning yet also an extremely potent marine neurotoxin. It is known to the most powerful toxin which is about 1200 times more toxic than cyanide. It’s greater risk found in puffer fish which lives in Indo-Pacific regions. Many cases have been reported including fatalities from Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of California & Atlantic Ocean. This poisoning is mostly common in Japan. Life-threatening condition may found in 50% of cases. One report claims that more than 100 cases of human intoxication is found in Taiwan in 1998-2008.

The symptoms generally appear between 20min-3h after consuming it. The most common symptoms include

  • Numbness of lip, tongue & face
  • Sensation of floating & lightness
  • Nausea, Diarrhea & vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Convulsions & extensive muscle weakness
  • Respiratory distress
  • Difficulty walking etc

Death can happen in more critical cases due to respiratory failure & CVD collapse as early as 17 min after ingestion. So, it is important to seek medical aid immediately.There is no any antidote for this type of poisoning but some medical aid can reduce the intensity of   symptoms. It includes immediate pumping out of gastric contents (gastric lavage) with respiratory and mechanical support, been shown to reduce deaths.

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