The Barracuda is primarily a seawater fish that can range in size from 1 foot to over 6 feet in length. It has a lean, torpedo-shaped body with razor sharp teeth and a menacing look.
What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)
- Barracuda Injury
What is Barracuda Bite? (Definition/Background Information)
- The barracuda is primarily a seawater fish that can range in size from 1 foot to over 6 feet in length. It has a lean, torpedo-shaped body with razor sharp teeth and a menacing look
- The barracudas inhabit the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Mediterranean seas. It is a highly-evolved and aggressive predator. Adult barracudas are generally solitary, while younger ones may hunt in groups
- Barracudas swim in shallow waters or among coral reefs and are known to be curious creatures. They are fast swimmers (for short distances) and chiefly hunt and prey on other fish
- Contact with humans (divers and snorkelers) can occur in the ocean, when they are attracted to objects on the swimmers/divers that glint or shine, or mistaking them for prey. Barracudas are known to follow divers for long distances, though by keeping a respectable distance. They can attack in self-defense or when they feel threatened
- Barracuda Bites can result in severe laceration or puncture wounds. The bites can tear and injure the skin, tissues, and even the bones. Their bites are relatively non-toxic, but may result in an infection if left untreated
- Immediate medical attention has to be sought in case of severe bites. The treatment would include washing the affected area, attending to local wounds, and use of medications (topical antibiotics and painkillers). The prognosis is generally good with treatment
Who gets Barracuda Bite? (Age and Sex Distribution)
- Any individual exposed to a Barracuda is vulnerable to be bitten
- Both males and females are affected and there is no gender bias observed
- Barracudas are marine creatures found around the world. Different species are found in the Mediterranean sea, the Caribbean sea, and parts of the Atlantic Ocean
- The incidents of barracuda attacks are generally rare
What are the Risk Factors for Barracuda Bite? (Predisposing Factors)
The risk factors identified for Barracuda Bites include:
- Deep sea and coral reef divers
- Swimmers and beachgoers
- Interacting with them, such as while hunting them (spear-fishing), swimming around them, exploring the ocean floors within their vicinity, etc.
- Keeping them as pets in aquariums
- Handling these creatures, hand-feeding them
It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.
Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.
What are the Causes of Barracuda Bite? (Etiology)
- Barracuda Bites can inflict serious skin, tissue, and bone injuries. The bites may occur inadvertently, or when the barracuda is threatened, or if it mistakes humans for prey
- Often a single attack or bite by a barracuda is the norm, and multiple or repeated attacks are very rare
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Barracuda Bite?
Generally, the larger the species of Barracuda, the greater is the severity of the bite. The signs and symptoms of Barracuda Bites may include:
- Local injury, cuts, gashes, and laceration; usually on the arms (hands, fingers) or legs
- Presence of several bite marks (a row of teeth marks may be visible)
- Puncture wounds with severe bleeding
- Swelling of the area
- Temporary loss of function in the affected limb
How is Barracuda Bite Diagnosed?
A Barracuda Bite is diagnosed through the following tools:
- A physical examination of the affected site by the physician is normally sufficient to diagnose the condition
- In addition, the symptoms exhibited by the individual may be carefully observed
- The individual may be asked to provide an account (history) of the events that occurred (what took place and how)
- X-rays or CT scans of the affected region
Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
What are the possible Complications of Barracuda Bite?
The complications that may arise from a Barracuda Bite may include:
- Anaphylaxis type allergic reaction
- Bleeding and skin ulceration can cause secondary bacterial or fungal infections to develop
- Scarring of skin at affected area
- Bites to the face can result in very serious injuries
How is Barracuda Bite Treated?
The treatment measures for Barracuda Bite may include:
- Wound care
- Immediately arresting the bleeding
- Removal of any broken teeth from the wound
- The affected area is washed with soap and water
- Application of topical antibiotics to prevent infection
- Bandaging (sterile dressing) the area, as required
- Sutures may be required in some cases
- Pain relieving medications, as required, may be administered
- Administration of oral antibiotics
- Tetanus vaccination is usually required, if it is not up to date
- In case of severe bites, it could be a medical emergency and prompt attention has to be provided
- Proper follow-up care and check-ups may be required, especially to monitor for any signs of infection
Note: It is always important to call the local emergency helpline number (911 in the US) without any delay.
How can Barracuda Bite be Prevented?
The following factors may be considered to reduce the incidence of Barracuda Bites:
- If you are in the vicinity of barracudas, try to slowly move away from the area (without any sudden, jerky movements)
- Generally avoid any sort of interaction with a barracuda, including trying to touch or grab them, or hand-feeding them
- Ensure safety precautions while cleaning marine animal aquariums; wear gloves and protective suit
- Do not ignore warnings of lifeguards or health officials at the beach
- Wear protective clothing if you plan to swim or dive in barracuda habitat
- Generally be aware or watchful of the waters you are in (to the extent possible)
- Marine life explorers and sea adventurers are required to carry marine first aid kit
What is the Prognosis of Barracuda Bite? (Outcomes/Resolutions)
The prognosis of Barracuda Bite is generally good with effective treatment.
Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Barracuda Bite:
Barracudas are consumed as food fish in many parts of the world.
What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?
National Capital Poison Center (USA)
3201 New Mexico Ave, Suite 310 Washington, DC 20016
Administrative Line: (202) 362-3867
Emergency Line: 1 (800) 222-1222
Fax: (202) 362-8377
Email: [email protected]
American Association of Poison Control Centers (USA)
515 King St., Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 894-1858
Email: [email protected]
National Poisons Centre (New Zealand)
Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago
PO Box 913 Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Phone: 0800 POISON (0800 764 766)
NSW Poisons Information Centre (Australia)
Hawkesbury Rd & Hainsworth Street, Westmead NSW 2145, Australia
Phone: +61 13 11 26
Email: [email protected]
British Columbia Drug and Poison Information Centre (Canada)
Room 0063, BC Centre for Disease Control
655 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4R4 Canada
Phone: (604) 682-5050
Toll-Free: 1 (800) 567-8911
Fax: (604) 707-2807
Poisons Information Centre (South Africa)
Room 411, Institute of Child Health
Red Cross Children’s Hospital
Klipfontein Road, Rondebosch, 7700, Cape Town South Africa
Phone: +27 21 658 5308
Fax: +27 21 650 4492
Email: [email protected]
National Poisons Information Service (United Kingdom)
City Hospital Dudley Rd, Birmingham United Kingdom B187QH
Phone: +44 844 892 0111
Fax: +44 121 507 55 88
Email: [email protected]
References and Information Sources used for the Article:
White, J. (2000). Bites and stings from venomous animals: a global overview. Therapeutic drug monitoring, 22(1), 65-68.
Halstead, B. W. (1959). Dangerous Marine Animals. Dangerous Marine Animals.
Burnett, J. W., Fenner, P. J., & Rifkin, J. F. (1996). Venomous and poisonous marine animals: a medical and biological handbook. UNSW Press.
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Grubich, J. R., Rice, A. N., & Westneat, M. W. (2008). Functional morphology of bite mechanics in the great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda). Zoology, 111(1), 16-29.
Habegger, M. L., Motta, P. J., Huber, D. R., & Deban, S. M. (2011). Feeding biomechanics in the Great Barracuda during ontogeny. Journal of Zoology, 283(1), 63-72.
Habegger, M. L. (2009). Bite force in two top predators, the great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda and bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, during ontogeny.
O’Toole, A. C., Murchie, K. J., Pullen, C., Hanson, K. C., Suski, C. D., Danylchuk, A. J., & Cooke, S. J. (2011). Locomotory activity and depth distribution of adult great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) in Bahamian coastal habitats determined using acceleration and pressure biotelemetry transmitters. Marine and Freshwater Research, 61(12), 1446-1456.
Bahri-Shabanipour, A. H., & Mohammadizadeh, M. (2010). A study on diet composition and feeding habitats of Sawtooth Barracuda (Sphyraena putnamae) in Bandar-Abbas (North of Persian Gulf). Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, 5(3), 179-190.
O’toole, A. C., Danylchuk, A. J., Suski, C. D., & Cooke, S. J. (2010). Consequences of catch-and-release angling on the physiological status, injury, and immediate mortality of great barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda) in The Bahamas. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 67(8), 1667-1675.
Habegger, M. L., Huber, D. H., Lajeunesse, M. J., & Motta, P. J. (2017). Theoretical calculations of bite force in billfishes. Journal of Zoology, 303(1), 15-26.
Thomas, N., & Brook, I. (2011). Animal bite-associated infections: microbiology and treatment. Expert review of anti-infective therapy, 9(2), 215-226.