Symptoms of seafood poisoning

In recent years, cases of seafood poisoning have increased worldwide, due to several reasons, including increased consumption of seafood, global climate change, high rates of trade, and tourism.


Seafood poisoning occurs as a result of consuming food sourced from the sea; They contain accumulated toxins that cannot be eliminated by cooking, freezing, drying, salting or soaking. Nor can it be detected through the sense of smell or taste.

Seafood food poisoning can cause symptoms and diseases of varying severity; Some of them may be life-threatening.

In this article, learn about the most prominent types and symptoms of seafood poisoning and how they are treated.

First of all, it is worth noting that the types of seafood poisoning that this article deals with are related to toxins only in particular, but you can learn about other types of food poisoning caused by contamination of seafood with bacteria, viruses, or parasites in the article Types of food poisoning

Types of seafood poisoning

The most common types of seafood poisoning include:

  • Ciguatera poisoning.
  • Histamine poisoning is also known as mackerel food poisoning.
  • Shellfish Poisoning.

Ciguatera poisoning

Ciguatera is a form of marine food poisoning that can occur when eating fish contaminated with ciguatera, a toxin produced by a tiny organism called a dinoflagellate.

The dinoflagellate attaches itself to the algae that grow in coral reefs in warm ocean waters, and thus these algae become like a source of poison, which may eventually be transmitted to humans through the following steps:

Small plant-eating fish eat poisonous algae.
Large predatory fish eat small poisoned fish.
Humans eat large fish that feed in warm ocean waters, which have become a potential vector for ciguatera toxin.


Symptoms of ciguatera food poisoning appear within 3-6 hours after eating the poisoned fish but may be as late as 30 hours or more. Symptoms often last for a few days, but in a few cases, they last for a few months.

Symptoms of ciguatera poisoning include:


vomiting and diarrhea;
Stomach pain or abdominal cramps.
Numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes, around the lips, tongue, inside the mouth, and throat.
Severe itching, which may intensify when drinking alcohol.
Pain in joints and muscles.
Toothache or a feeling that the teeth are loosening.
The sensation of a metallic taste in the mouth.

blurred vision

Increased sensitivity to high or low temperature.
Burning sensation or pain upon contact with cold water.
Difficulty breathing in severe cases.
Treatment and prevention
There is no specific treatment for marine ciguatera poisoning, but appropriate treatments are offered to control symptoms. Patients are advised to avoid eating fish, nuts, caffeine, and alcohol for 6 months after recovery, in order to prevent the return of symptoms.

Although prevention is better than cure, it is difficult to distinguish fish contaminated with ciguatera, as the poison does not change its appearance, smell, or taste. Also, cooking does not eliminate the poison. So it may not be possible to avoid eating contaminated fish.

However, the risk of infection can be reduced by avoiding eating the types and parts of fish that are at a higher risk of infection than others, namely:

Barracuda fish.
Parrot fish.
The parts of the fish that often contain the highest concentration of toxins, such as the fish’s liver, intestines, eggs, and head.

histamine poisoning

Histamine poisoning, or mackerel or scombroid poisoning, is caused by eating fish that contain high levels of histamine.

Histamine levels rise in some types of fish as a result of not cooling them quickly after fishing or because they are stored at an inappropriate temperature, which causes bacteria to multiply, which in turn produces large amounts of histamine.

The most common types of fish to cause mackerel poisoning include:

In most cases, symptoms of histamine poisoning appear within minutes of eating contaminated fish and usually last for 12-48 hours. Here are the common mackerel food poisoning symptoms:

Redness of the face or upper body.
Heart palpitations.
blurred vision
vomiting and diarrhea;
Difficulty breathing and low blood pressure in severe cases.
Treatment and prevention
Marine mackerel poisoning can be treated with antihistamines.

As for the prevention of histamine poisoning, much can be done except storing fish properly, as cooking, freezing, or smoking do not eliminate pollution, and the taste of both contaminated and uncontaminated fish is similar, but the taste of contaminated fish may tend to be sharp or salty. Little.

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