Dozens suffer ‘excruciating’ sting of venomous fish
VENOMOUS fish with a sting so painful a double dose of morphine could not subdue a man, are lying in wait in Sunshine Coast beaches, rock pools and rivers.
Last year, stonefish injured 56 people according to Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service data.
Dozens of those were in the peak holiday months of January, November and December.
Sunshine Coast University and Nambour hospital emergency medicine specialist, Dr Simon Jensen, said he had personally treated about 50 patients for stonefish stings since mid-2006.
In some cases, he said the pain could last more than 12 hours, and varied depending on the size of the fish, the person, and the number of stings.
The majority of patients Dr Jensen treated were stung in the Caloundra area, including the Pumicestone Passage, Golden Beach, Bulcock Beach and Kings Beach.
Cotton Tree was the next-most-common area, and Dr Jensen had treated a number of patients stung in the Maroochy River.
Caloundra Jet Ski Hire owner Ken Jeffreys said he often urged families to swim between the flagged area on Bulcock Beach, rather than the pristine-looking, stonefish-prone stretch near his business beside the boardwalk.
He was aware of two punctures in the past three weeks.
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Mr Jeffreys applauded the life savers who had treated both people, and a scuba diving group who cleaned the Pumicestone Passage and warned him of any stonefish hot spots nearby.
Dr Jensen explained water heated to about 45C was the most effective pain relief, but this did not degrade the venom.
He said one "normal-sized" man he had treated was still screaming and delirious after a 20mg dose of morphine and the green whistle, despite 10mg being the typical maximum dose for a broken leg or severe abdominal pain.
Stonefish stings typically presented with an "intense blueness", Dr Jensen explained, due to peptides in the venom which constricted blood vessels so strongly red blood cells could not move.
He said rapid swelling and redness would develop over the next hour.
He believed more people could be treated with antivenene, which often resulted in patients being discharged after about and hour, but cost $332 per dose.
Dr Jeffrey said he had treated people for injuries caused by other venomous creatures in Coast waters, including stingrays, striped catfish, lion fish, black trevally and bull routs.