Fish Poisoning: Symptoms to Watch Out For

Fish Poisoning: Symptoms to Watch Out For

Studies have found that a certain type of fish poisoning – ciguatera – is far more common in southern Florida than previously believed. While there is no one way to identify the condition, some symptoms can help pinpoint if you or a loved one is suffering from fish poisoning.

Here is a rundown of the common types of fish poisoning, their symptoms, and possible treatments.

Common Types of Fish Poisoning

The three common types of fish poisoning are ciguatera, scombroid, and shellfish.


A toxin in larger reef fish causes this type of fish poisoning. The ciguatoxin affects the nervous system and can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It can also cause neurological symptoms like dizziness, headache, and muscle weakness in severe cases.


This type of fish poisoning happens when you consume fish that has not been properly refrigerated. This type of fish poisoning usually affects tuna, mackerel, and bluefish. The symptoms of scombroid poisoning are similar to those of an allergic reaction. They can include hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and abdominal cramps.

Shellfish Poisoning

There are three types of shellfish poisoning: paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP), neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP), and amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP).

  • PSP affects the nervous system and can cause symptoms like muscle weakness, paralysis, and respiratory failure.
  • NSP affects the nervous system and can cause symptoms like tingling, numbness, and dizziness.
  • ASP affects the brain and can cause symptoms like memory loss, disorientation, and confusion.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

The symptoms of fish poisoning can vary depending on the toxin involved. But there are some shared symptoms to watch out for, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion

If you notice any fish poisoning symptoms, don’t delay – rush to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center. A delay in treatment might worsen the symptoms and could even be life-threatening.

Treatment for Fish Poisoning

There is no single approach to treating fish poisoning. The best course of treatment will depend on the type of poison involved and the severity of the symptoms. In most cases, this will involve supportive care to help alleviate the fish poisoning symptoms. The treatment may include IV fluids to prevent dehydration and medications to control nausea and vomiting.

In severe cases of poisoning, more aggressive treatment may be necessary. This could include mechanical ventilation for respiratory failure or dialysis for kidney failure.

How to Avoid Fish Poisoning

The best way to avoid fish poisoning is to minimize the risks. When buying fish, purchase from a reputable source and check if the fish has been properly refrigerated.

Cook fish thoroughly and avoid eating raw or undercooked fish. And if you have doubts about the safety or freshness of the fish, be cautious and do not consume it.

Following these simple tips can reduce your risk of fish poisoning. But if you experience symptoms after eating fish, seek medical attention immediately.

Get 24/7 Medical Care From ShorePoint Health Emergency & Urgent Care – Cape Coral

As one of the only health systems in Cape Coral with ER and urgent care services under one roof, ShorePoint Health Emergency & Urgent Care offers affordable pricing, quality care, and trained staff. Patients are only billed based on the level of care received, and there are no appointments needed for in-person visits. The ER is available 24 hours a day, every day, and the urgent care walk-in clinic hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

ShorePoint Health Emergency & Urgent Care – Cape Coral, a department of ShorePoint Health Punta Gorda, is located at 2521 Del Prado Blvd. N. in Cape Coral and may be reached at 239-356-0740.