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What is ciguatera poisoning?
Ciguatera is a type of food poisoning. The ciguatera toxin may be found in large reef fish, most commonly barracuda, grouper, red snapper, eel, amberjack, sea bass, and Spanish mackerel. These fish live in coral reef waters between latitudes of 35 degrees south to 35 degrees north, corresponding to the area located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. These geographic lines ring the earth north and south of the equator and make up the tropics. These areas include the Caribbean Sea, Hawaii, and coastal Central America.
Ciguatera toxin tends to accumulate in predator fish, such as the Barracuda and other carnivorous reef fish because they eat other fish that consume toxin-producing algae (dinoflagellates) that live in coral reef waters.
Ciguatera toxin is harmless to fish but poisonous to humans. The toxin is odorless and tasteless, and it is heat-resistant, so cooking does not destroy the toxin. Eating ciguatera-contaminated tropical or subtropical fish poisons the person who eats it.
What are the symptoms of ciguatera poisoning?
Symptoms of ciguatera poisoning generally begin six to eight hours after eating the contaminated fish.
Hot and cold sensation may be reversed.
Severe cases of ciguatera poisoning may result in tearing of the eyes, chills, skin rash, itching, shortness of breath, drooling, and paralysis. Death due to heart or respiratory failure occurs in rare cases.
What is the treatment for ciguatera poisoning?
If you or someone you know has ingested a fish that you suspect might be contaminated with ciguatera toxin, and you or they have signs or symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, pain, trouble breathing, seizure, confusion, or abnormal skin color, call either an ambulance or the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) for guidance.
- The National Poison Control Center phone number is 1-800-222-1222. This number is routed to the poison control center that serves your area.
- Place the telephone number (along with police, fire, and 911 or equivalent) near your home phones.
not induce vomiting or give syrup of Ipecac.
- Ipecac was formerly used to induce vomiting in poisoned patients where there was a chance to get the toxin out of the body. Several advisory bodies such as the American Association of Poison Control Centers and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended that Ipecac NOT be used and that it should not even be kept in the household. For more information on this subject go to: http://www.poison.org/prepared/ipecac.asp
- Do not give activated charcoal at home. Allow medical personnel to decide if this treatment is appropriate.
The poison control center will instruct you what to do.
- Maintain hydration. Intravenous fluids may be necessary for uncontrollable nausea and vomiting.
- There is no specific antidote for ciguatera poisoning.
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may help relieve itching. Give 25-50 mg every 6 hours.
- Alcohol, fish, nuts, and nut oils should be avoided after exposure to ciguatera poisoning because they may trigger recurrent symptoms.
When should I see a doctor for ciguatera poisoning?
- Severe cases of ciguatera poisoning require hospitalization for intravenous fluids.
- If you think you may have ciguatera poisoning, seek immediate medical attention.
- A doctor should be consulted in every case about treatment for ciguatera poisoning, including available medications.
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DiarrheaDiarrhea is a change is the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal pain, and the sensation of rectal urgency. Causes of diarrhea include viral, bacterial, or parasite infection, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and drugs. Absorbents and anti-motility medications are used to treat diarrhea.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is an OTC and prescription injection medication used to treat:
- hay fever,
- allergic conjunctivitis,
- motion sickness,
- and mild cases of Parkinsonism.
Side effects, drug interactions, dosage, storage, and pregnancy safety information should be reviewed prior to taking this medication.
DizzinessDizziness is a symptom that often applies to a variety of sensations including lightheadedness and vertigo. Causes of dizziness include low blood pressure, heart problems, anemia, dehydration, and other medical conditions. Treatment of dizziness depends on the cause.
Food PoisoningFood poisoning is common, but can also be life threatening. The symptoms for food poisoning are fever, abdominal pain, headache, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Food poisoning has many causes, for example, chemicals (from toxic fish or plants) and bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus or Salmonella). Treatment of food poisoning depends upon the cause.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that often precedes vomiting. Nausea and vomiting are not diseases, but they are symptoms of many conditions. There are numerous cases of nausea and vomiting. Some causes may not require medical treatment, for example, motion sickness, and other causes may require medical treatment by a doctor, for example, heart attack, lung infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Some causes of nausea and vomiting may be life-threatening, for example, heart attack, abdominal obstruction, and cancers.
Treatment of nausea and vomiting depends upon the cause.
Poison Control CentersThe United States National Poison Hotline is 1-800-222-1222. When you call this number you will be automatically linked to the nearest poison center in the United States. Call this number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to talk to a poison expert.
Skin RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
Seizure (Epilepsy)Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the person has seizures. There are two kinds of seizures, focal and generalized. There are many causes of epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy (seizures) depends upon the cause and type of seizures experienced.
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