A Diver's Guide to Subaquatic Envenomation in the Mediterranean

Diving Hyperb Med. 2019 Sep 30;49(3):225-228. doi: 10.28920/dhm49.3.225-228.


Introduction: Between 40,000 and 50,000 divers and swimmers are envenomated each year and diving as a hobby is becoming increasingly popular. In the Mediterranean, envenomation is most often by Weever fish, Scorpion fish and jellyfish but coral and sea urchins may also be venomous.

Envenomation: Most stings cause local inflammation, oedema and pain. The severity of pain varies with the venom and the amount injected. In severe cases, stings may be life-threatening due to cardiogenic or anaphylactic shock or penetration of vital structures.

Management: Most cases of envenomation are preventable with a combination of measures including the avoidance of contact through good buoyancy control, the wearing of body-suits, and by maintaining visual awareness. Immediate management is to return to the surface, elevate and wash the site of injury. Immersion in hot water followed by simple analgesics for pain relief has been shown to be more effective than other methods. More severe cases should be identified by symptoms including confusion and heavy bleeding and referred to qualified medical care.

Conclusion: Envenomation by subaquatic species is common and preventable yet the dissemination of the appropriate knowledge is limited. This knowledge summary provides pertinent information aimed at divers in preventing and managing such injuries.

Keywords: Diving; First aid; Flow chart; Marine animals; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antivenins / therapeutic use*
  • Bites and Stings* / complications
  • Bites and Stings* / therapy
  • Diving*
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • First Aid / methods*
  • Fish Venoms / poisoning
  • Humans
  • Marine Toxins / poisoning
  • Mollusk Venoms / poisoning
  • Scyphozoa


  • Antivenins
  • Fish Venoms
  • Marine Toxins
  • Mollusk Venoms