In the Hawaiian language, scorpionfish are known as nohu, which is the same name used for stonefish in Tahiti.
A close relative of and often mistaken for the stonefish, the Devil Scorpionfish pictured to the right was photographed at Sharks Cove on Oahu’s North Shore.
There are approximately 350 known species of scorpionfish around the world, approximately 25 of which can be found in Hawaii waters. Lionfish and turkeyfish are also in the scorpionfish family, but generally have longer fins.
Like the stonefish, the Devil Scorpionfish is also a master of disguise in both body shape, and coloration. It is very often mistaken for a common rock. Most stings occur when someone mistakingly steps on a Devil Scorpionfish in shallow water near the shore, where there oftentimes are a lot of other rocks, or along the reef. The Devil Scorpionfish is able to blend in with the other rocks and stay motionless, thereby virtually disappearing from view.
If a person is stung, that person will experience intense throbbing, sharp pain. There may be severe bleeding and a whitened color of the area around the site of the sting and the color of the area changes as the amount of oxygen supplying the area decreases. The victim may experience intense abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, delirium, fainting, fever, headache, muscle twitching, seizures, paralysis. difficulty breathing, changes in blood pressure, heart failure, pulmonary edema, and loss of consciousness.
Immediate emergency medical treatment is advised as some people are more susceptible to the venom than others. The sting of the stonefish can be extremely deadly.
To treat a Stonefish sting follow these simple steps:
- Immediately wash the area with fresh water.
- Carefully remove any visible spines from the wound.
- Use direct pressure with gauze pads to control bleeding.
- Soak the affected area in warm water (110°F to 113°F) for 30 to 90 minutes to denature the toxins.
- Administration of analgesia (never use aspirin in conjunction with hot water treatments).
- Watch for signs of systemic symptoms and be ready to perform CPR if necessary or treatment for anaphylactic shock.
- Transport to the hospital for evaluation and wound debridement and care, and anti-venom administration where available.
Recovery usually takes about 24 – 48 hours but can take several months.