Blue-ringed octopus bites, although painless, are highly poisonous to
humans. It is a tiny cephalod that is considered to be amongst the deadliest marine animals. They are found in Australia and in the eastern Indo-Pacific. The generally docile animal is typically yellowish brown in color, but when it is disturbed, the rings change color to a bright blue showing its change of mood.
Maculotoxin, the venom of the blue-ringed octopuses, is found in its saliva. It is said to be highly similar to those of tetrodoxin, the deadly toxin found in puffer fishes. A study shows that a 25g blue-ringed octopus retains enough venom to gravely paralyze 10 big humans.There are several cases of blue-ringed octopus bites every year, and some of these cases are life-threatening.
Symptoms of Blue-ringed Octopus Bites
The bite is usually slight and some people may not even be aware that they have been bitten. But if one comes into contact with a blue-ringed octopus, one must be on the lookout for any one of the possible symptoms. Blue-ringed octopus bites are typically painless and it is still a debate whether envenomation can occur with prolonged skin contact. The onset of symptoms will depend on the amount of venom transferred to the wound but not all bites result to envenomation.
- Small laceration with little or no discoloration, often accompanied by at most a tiny drop of blood
- Excessive bleeding may occur afterwards
- Paresthesia or numbness around the face, mouth, tongue and neck
- Progressive muscular weakness
- Trouble breathing and chest tightness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty speaking
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual problems
- In severe cases:
- Drooping paralysis
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory failure, which may eventually lead to death (due to cerebral anoxia)
First Aid Management for Blue-ringed Octopus Bites
Bites from blue-ringed octopusesare considered a medical emergency, thus it is necessary to seek medical help immediately. Though symptoms may not manifest right away, do not assume that no envenomation has occurred. The peak of fatal symptoms usually last from four to ten hours. To give immediate first aid to a victim of a blue-ringed octopus bite:
- 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.
- Ensure that this is done within the first 30 minutes of the injury.
- If there is difficulty breathing or no breathing, give mouth-to-mouth. If necessary, initiate CPR.
Prevention of Blue-ringed Octopus Bites
Blue-ringed octopus bites are commonly caused by people picking up the harmless looking octopus unaware of the dangers it possesses.
- When one explores rock pools, look only but do not touch.
- Stay away from octopuses as one may not see these tiny marine organisms.
Although blue-ringed octopusmay not be present within the area, first aid should be known for all cases of emergency, especially if one decides to travel to Indo-Pacific and Australian countries. Disclaimer: Although there is no available antivenin for blue-ringed octopus bites, administering first aid immediately can help significantly in avoiding further damages. The given 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, including blue-ringed octopus bites, enroll in First Aid Courses and CPR training, especially before join traveling to different countries.