Catfish are freshwater fish that are named for their catlike whiskers. Although it is commonly thought that these whiskers sting, catfish actually wound a person by puncturing or piercing the skin with spines that are located on their fins. If irritated, the catfish may then release and inject venom.



Lionfish are colorful fish that can inflict a very painful wound. At the time of the puncture, their spines (at the tip of the narrow top fins) usually release venom that can cause swelling and blistering. Because of their attractive appearance, some people keep lionfish in aquariums. In the ocean, they live mostly in deep water reefs and caves.



The southern stingray, pictured above, is commonly found along the Atlantic coast from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. It has the ability to move from saltwater to freshwater and may be found in the ocean or in river inlets close to the ocean. Like other stingrays, it has a wide, flat body and long tail with one or more barbed stingers. These barbs can release venom when stinging their victim. To avoid stepping on a stingray, shuffle your feet as you walk in the water. 

Common Symptoms of Punctures:

  • moderate to severe pain
  • headache
  • nausea
  • swelling
  • redness
  • weakness

Uncommon Symptoms of Punctures:

  • vomiting
  • skin and muscle tissue death
  • dizziness
  • muscle cramps
  • decreased blood pressure

What to Do if Someone is Punctured:
Stingrays usually require medical attention:

  • If any small pieces of spine or barb remain in the wound, pull them out with tweezers or scrape them off with a credit card or dull knife. Do not remove them with your fingers, or you may be punctured again.
  • If you cannot easily remove pieces of spine or barb, seek medical help
  • Submerge the injured part in hot water at as high a temperature as the patient can tolerate without injury for 30-90 minutes. This will inactivate the venom and provide some pain relief.
  • Use an anesthetic cream (lidocaine), as directed, for moderate itching, burning, pain, or inflammation.      
  • Follow up with your primary care provider if you need a tetanus booster.
  • Call 911 if you are having trouble breathing or have chest pain.


Call NC Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or chat from this site for further treatment.