Wilderness Medicine, First Aid, and Outdoor Skills
Catfish Sting

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US Army First Aid Manual
Fundamental Criteria for First Aid
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Appendix A: First Aid Case and Kits, Dressings, and Bandages
Appendix B: Rescue and Transportation Procedures
Appendix C: Common Problems/Conditions
Appendix D: Digital Pressure
Appendix E: Decontamination Procedures
Appendix F: Glossary

The freshwater catfish has typical dorsal and apectoral spines on each side. The striate of spines are responsible for a multitude of stings and envenomations in fishermen. These mostly result in puncture wounds and scrapes. RARELY do they result in a serious injury. There is local irritation and pain at puncture site. Holding the catfish so that it will not sting you is imperative. It is not difficult to do. Hold it on the palm of your hand, on the ventral side of the fish. This way, you have fingers on either side of the pectoral spines, and are not coming in close contact with the dorsal spine. This firm grasp allows you to hold the fish without being stung.

Catfish Sting Treatment

Outdoor Treatment of Catfish Stings
Irrigate the wound with fresh warm water, as hot as you can tolerate. This author, however, has used both cool and warm water, with similar results. The rationale for using warmer water is that it is supposed to decrease the venom effects and burning. Caution is advised in individuals who have read certain treatment interventions such as using boiling or scalding water, and end up burning their hand, arm or foot because the water was too hot, suffering greater injury than the sting. Pain medication and antibiotics can been helpful to prevent infection. There are a varietyof antibiotics that may be used, as these bites usually do become infected from the normal flora on our skin, on which is located staphylococcus and streptococcus. Monitor the wound over the next four to five days. Signs fo infection: Ascending red marks, increased pain, soreness in joint areas or above the sting area. These bites usually do quite well except for secondary infection.

Healthcare Provider - Medical Treatment
Catfish stings from the dorsal and lateral fins usually resolve quite well on their own, although they can be very painful. This author has been stung many times by freshwater catfish including the channel catfish, the common bullhead, as well as flatheads. Without any treatment, this author’s stings did resolve. However, it would not be uncommon for these to become infected, with a classic cellulitis occurring. One also has to be concerned about infections from stagnant, contaminated water. Please see skin infections and treatment.

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