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What Are the Different Types of Fish Poisoning?

Meshell Powell
Meshell Powell

Fish poisoning in humans can be a serious medical issue. There are two basic types of fish poisoning, known as ciguatera poisoning and scombroid poisoning. Ciguatera poisoning occurs when a person eats a fish that has ingested a type of toxin. Scombroid poisoning may occur when a person eats fish that has not been properly cooked. A particular type of fish, known as a puffer fish, can cause more serious poisoning issues and requires immediate medical attention.

Ciguatera fish poisoning is possible when someone eats a reef fish or a fish from tropical areas that has ingested some sort of harmful toxin. These toxins remain in the fish even after the fish has been frozen or cooked. This type of fish poisoning is not deadly and goes away on its own after a period of time.


Symptoms of ciguatera poisoning typically include abdominal pain or cramping. These symptoms may be accompanied by varying degrees of nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Muscle pain or headaches may be present as well. Some people may experience numbness, tingling, or itchy skin.

Scombroid fish poisoning may occur from eating raw fish or fish that has not been cooked properly or thoroughly. If a fish is allowed to become too warm after it is caught, a substance known as histamine may build up inside the fish. If this fish is then improperly prepared for human consumption, a person's immune system may react negatively to this buildup of histamine, leading to a type of allergic reaction.

Steamed fish.
Steamed fish.

Symptoms of scombroid poisoning usually occur within minutes of eating the fish and may include abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting. Facial flushing or the sudden appearance of a rash or hives may also occur. It is important to note that this type of poisoning does not automatically mean that the infected person is allergic to all fish. An over-the-counter antihistamine is often all that is needed to treat this type of reaction, although it is generally wise to visit a doctor for a clear and accurate diagnosis.

The puffer fish is a type of poisonous fish that some people throughout the world choose to eat in spite of the risks. The poison found in this fish may sometimes remain in the flesh even after thorough cooking. This type of fish poisoning can cause permanent paralysis or even death and should be treated as a medical emergency. Early symptoms often include facial numbness, slurred speech, and muscle weakness.

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      Steamed fish.