Cone snail stings are from the marine snails called cone shells or cone snails.
These cone-shaped shell marine animals have a fleshy foot, a head
and tentacles. Cone snails are of the genus Conus.Although all species of Conus are venomous and capable of stinging humans, the most dangerous of their species are those that prey on small bottom-dwelling fish, in other words, those located deep in the ocean.
These marine gastropod mollusks have approximately 500 species, located in the Indian and Pacific oceans, Caribbean and Red seas and along several shoreline, but mostly in tropical climates. Although usually not aggressive,
they sting their victims when they feel threatened. As a result, most cases of cone snail stings are due to improper handling, thus most stings occur on the fingers or hands.Cone snails generally use their dart-like tooth (radicula) or dagger to inject their venoms on their prey.
Cone snail venoms are primarily composed of peptides with a variety
of toxins, some of which can be extremely toxic to humans, sometimes even fatal. There is no antivenin for cone snail stings, thus giving first aid immediately can help significantly in cases of cone snail stings. The following information are not be used as medical advice or substitute for first aid training. To learn how to treat bites and stings of a wide variety of animals, enroll in First Aid Courses and CPR training.
Symptoms of Cone Snail Stings
Depending on the species and the toxins injected in their victims, some symptoms may manifest immediately or after a few days
- In mild cases
- Severe, localized pain or burning, stinging sensation
- Numbness and tingling sensation in the affected limb
- Cyanosis of the limb
- In serious cases:
- Muscle paralysis (total limb numbness which may spread to the perioral or area around the mouth)
- Vision changes (blurred or double)
- Loss of body coordination
- Difficulty breathing and speaking
- Respiratory failure, which can lead to death.
First Aid for Cone Snail Stings
It is advised to seek medical help as soon as possible. However, if this is not readily available, first aid must be administered to alleviate pain.
- If the victim is currently scuba diving, immediately, but safely, get the person out of the water.
- Apply the pressure immobilization technique:
- Wrap the limb starting from the distal ends of the limb toward the body using an elastic bandage. Make sure that there is still blood flowing to the extremities.
- Immobilize the affected limb with a splint to avoid any sorts of movement.
- For the first four to six hours, remove the elastic bandage for 90 seconds at a time every 10 minutes.
- The affected limb may also be immersed in hot water, although temperatures should not exceed 60°C or 140°F to avoid burning the skin.
- If the person is not breathing, initiate CPR.
How to Prevent Cone Snail Stings
Cone snails should be handled with extra precaution, however, if possible, avoid all contact with cone snails. To do this:
- Avoid picking up cone shells, even in shorelines. If it is necessary, wear proper gloves before grasping the large end of the shell.
- If any part of the snail begins to appear, drop the shell immediately.
- Do not carry the shell inside a wet suit or clothing pocket to avoid cone snail stings.