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Is hot water immersion an effective treatment for marine envenomation?
  1. P R T Atkinson,
  2. A Boyle,
  3. D Hartin,
  4. D McAuley
  1. Emergency Department, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 P R T Atkinson
 Emergency Department, Box 87, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, CB2 2QQ; paul.atkinson{at}


Envenomation by marine creatures is common. As more people dive and snorkel for leisure, the incidence of envenomation injuries presenting to emergency departments has increased. Although most serious envenomations occur in the temperate or tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, North American and European waters also provide a habitat for many stinging creatures. Marine envenomations can be classified as either surface stings or puncture wounds. Antivenom is available for a limited number of specific marine creatures. Various other treatments such as vinegar, fig juice, boiled cactus, heated stones, hot urine, hot water, and ice have been proposed, although many have little scientific basis. The use of heat therapies, previously reserved for penetrating fish spine injuries, has been suggested as treatment for an increasing variety of marine envenomation. This paper reviews the evidence for the effectiveness of hot water immersion (HWI) and other heat therapies in the management of patients presenting with pain due to marine envenomation.

  • HWI, hot water immersion
  • bites
  • stings
  • marine toxins
  • heat
  • pain

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  • Competing interests: none declared

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