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Octopuses and Sea Snakes


If you come across an octopus while diving, it will probably swim into a hole to get away from you. However, some octopuses have been known to hurt people. While most are not venomous, the Australian blue-ringed octopus has venom powerful enough to kill a person. If a person is stung by a blue-ringed octopus, he or she should be taken to a hospital immediately.



Sea Snakes

Like the Australian blue-ringed octopus, some sea snakes also have venom strong enough to kill a person. Fortunately, there is an antivenin. You must get the victim to a hospital as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the treatment for a sea snake bite is the same as treatment for a blue-ringed octopus sting.


photo by James Latourrette,
Beneath the Seas of the West Indies, p. 59

Sea Snake
photo by Paul Auerbach,
A Medical Guide to Hazardous Marine Life, p. 37

Sea Snake
photo by Carl Roessler,
A Medical Guide to Hazardous Marine Life, p. 36

How to Treat Octopus and Sea Snake Injuries

Keep a respectful distance between you and the octopus or sea snake. In most cases, treat an octopus bite the same way you would treat a bite by a moray eel. A person stung on on arm or leg by a blue-ringed octopus or bitten by a sea snake should be treated in the following way:

1. Place a cloth or piece of gauze about 3" square and about 1" thick directly over the wound.

2. Hold the cloth or gauze firmly in place by wrapping an elastic cloth bandage around the cloth and the person's arm or leg. There should be about an inch of elastic cloth on either side of the 3" square cloth or gauze bandage. Wrap the elastic cloth tightly enough to press the pad into the skin, but not so tight that it cuts off blood circulation. In other words, the injured person's fingers or toes should still be pink and have normal sensation after wrapping the injured area. Keep the bandage on the person until you arrive at a hospital. If you loosen the bandage early, a dangerous amount of the venom may enter the person's bloodstream. Try to keep the injured area from being moved any more than necessary. The bandage should be removed after 18 to 24 hours.

3. Take the injured person to a hospital right away. Do NOT cut around the wound or try to suck out the venom. In the case of a sea snake bite, you should use a commercial suction device (called The Extractor) if you can do it within 5 minues of the bite. Do NOT use a tourniquet.

4. If the person was injured by a blue-ringed octopus, be prepared to give the victim artificial respiration if he or she stops breathing.Octopus victims may also become paralyzed. People bitten by sea snakes may have blurred vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty talking and swallowing, vomiting or paralysis. If the person has no symptoms within 6 to 8 hours, it is not likely that there was a significant amount of poison.



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