Cone snail sting

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A cone snail is likely to occur among divers in deep reef waters who handle them. The cone snails are nocturnal and tend to burrow in the sand and coral throughout the day. Some species eat fish, and these are considered harmful to humans.

What are the signs?

Most cases of cone snail stings occur on the hands and fingers after handling.

  • A mild case of cone snail sting might strikingly resemble a bee or wasp sting with localized stinging and burning sensation. In most cases, it can be unbearable that can be accompanied by tingling and numbness in the area where the sting occurred.
  • Some of the indications might continue to progress into cyanosis and even tingling or even numbness of the entire limb.
    Cone snail sting
    Some of the indications might continue to progress into cyanosis and even tingling or even numbness of the entire limb.
  • In serious instances, there is full numbness of the limb that progresses to the area around the mouth and the whole body. Paralysis can also occur that can disrupt the diaphragm in which the ability to breath is affected.
  • Coma and death are likely to occur in serious cases where the diaphragm is paralyzed.

The symptoms generally start in just minutes or days after the venom has been injected.

Other signs that might be arise include the following:

  • Itchiness
  • Double vision
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Heart failure
  • Difficulty breathing

Management of a cone snail sting

If an individual is scuba diving, he/she must be taken to the surface right away. Remember that even today, there is no available antivenom for the sting.

Some of the treatment options include the following:

  • Utilize the pressure immobilization technique
  • Immersion of the affected site in hot water that the individual can tolerate
  • Injection of a local anesthesia into the wound area.
  • Localized excision that is performed by a healthcare professional
  • Avoid excessive movement and keep the individual warm and calm.
  • In some cases, CPR might be required.


  • Do not pick up cone shells. It is necessary to use proper gloves and carefully hold the large end of the shell.
  • In case any part of the snail starts to protrude out of the shell, let go of the cone right away.
  • When carrying the shell, hold it by the large end of the shell.
  • Do not carry the shell inside a clothing pocket or wet suit.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on a cone snail sting is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs and how it is treated, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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