Piqure de rascasse volante : voilà pourquoi il faut s'en méfier

That’s why they’re right to be wary of it.

If the lion fish is beautiful and very photogenic, many divers fear the lion fish’s sting.

The night does not seem to want to fall in March on the Egyptian bay where I explore the seabed.

With my partner Didier and Dany, a friend, we are about to make a night dive. The weather of the last days was windy and we fear a very average visibility.

Get ready for the night dive

The divemaster named Ahmed at  Coraya dive center will be responsible for our  surface safety with his colleague . He confirms that the visibility is low at the beach. But, since the wind has slightly dropped, it could be better if we move a little further out to sea.

Perhaps because they are less accustomed than we are to night dives, perhaps sympathetically, Wolfgang and Philippe, decide to follow us. And of course, they are welcome.

We agree that I will guide the dive. Didier and Dany will follow me. Finally, Wolfgang and Philip warn us not to pay attention to them. This, because it is possible that they choose at one or the other moment to take another route.

Ahmed encourages us to take all our time. Just like me, he follows the rule for a successful night dive and is waiting for the night to have fallen well.

Une plongeuse attend prêt de son bloc monté de faire sa plongée de nuit

Time to jump into the water

When it’s time to go into the water, I’m going slowly. The cold of the sea (22 ° C) on my feet is not offset by the freshness of the beginning of this windy night.

For a moment, I think I would happily go back.  

However, I like so much diving at night that I continue to move in the water.

The waves are strong and fail to rock us. The visibility seems almost zero as the seabed is so much stirred. I’m a little cold despite my semi-dry suit.

On the surface, a baby octopus comes in the broad spectrum of my special dive photo light. It instantly makes me want to meet with him there.

Part one, when all is well

When under water, we reach the first pinnacle. I smiled internally because, I must admit, I almost missed it. The visibility is less than one meter. I feel like in some Belgian quarries.

We make a first lap before exploring the top of the pinnacle. A wonderful world is open to us : dozens of comatulas swarm in front of our eyes.

I approach a little to capture the beauty of this show through my lens. The cold gets me little by little. However, we only dive for +/- 15 minutes.

Suddenly I feel like a presence and instantly move away from the rock : some lion fish or scorpion fish go up along the pinnacle. I was not thinking about lion fish’s sting. Inexorably attracted by the ultra-wide beam of my lamp, they come close to me almost touching me.
Although these fish are beautiful, I am very wary of the lion fish’s sting and decide to go down. I bypass the pinnacle and head, as expected, to the north reef with the rest of the team.

Une rascasse s'approche

When admiration lowers the attention

Little by little the visibility is better and Didier shows me a huge hermit crab.
Approaching the little animal I push the lion fish nearby with my lamp : “ go away, further “. I don’t want to feel the lion fish’s sting.
I look around, get closer to the ground and immortalize the little crab. At this moment, I tell myself that my friend Dany, equipped with his macro camera, would also like to see him and take a picture.

I then make a movement of “Inverted Kick Frog” to back off without lifting sand and help me with a small movement of the hand.

Lion fish’s sting

I have no hesitation about what happens to me when I feel the lion fish’s sting on my finger. At this moment, I do not even turn but take my finger in my right hand and press the middle finger. A drop of blood pearls and acute pain starts instantly.

I just had a lion fish’s sting and it’s immediately very, very, very painful.  

Besides pain, stress wins me because I’m not sure of the effects of the lion fish’s sting. In fact, these effects are mixed  in my stressed mind with those of stone fish. While in reality I know the dangers of marine animals that I explained in this article .

One thing is certain : to intense pain and cold fear is added.
I remember that the lion fish bite can cause vagal discomfort because of the pain and I have no desire that it happens under water. I watch Didier, show him my finger and signal to him that I don’t feel well and that I want to surface …   RIGHT NOW !

I explain to the rest of the team that we are going to surface and end the dive and that they must stay together to finish their dive.

On the surface, in tears, I tell Didier that I just had a lion fish’s sting and that I want to be as soon as possible out of the water. Shaken by my sobs and while my buddy proposes to tow me, I quickly kick and we reach the coast.  

The pain then gained all my finger.

Ahmed come to meet us at the water’s edge and ask me questions.

Through my tears I tell him “lion fish, lion fish” and he immediately understands that I had a lion fish’s sting .
Ahmed does not wait ans ask me to follow him. His colleague helps me to quickly remove my gear. Didier tells me not to worry and I abandon all my equipment at the water’s edge.

The center is less than 50 meters away. I continue to sob until then.

First reactions following a lion fish’s sting  

Ahmed tells me to dip my finger in the hot water he brings me.

I feel that in addition to the pain, he wants to scald me.  

Yet, I end up getting my finger in the water (very hot) and I have the feeling that it diminishes a little bit the pain that gets now all my hand. Ahmed explains that the venom injected by the lion fish sting in my finger fears heat.
He also tries to reassure me by telling me that the lion fish sting is not dangerous, just very painful .

Despite that, it’s impossible to reassure me but it helps..a bit.

I’m still in pain, I’m cold (shivering) … and scared too. I do not feel well, not at all. Meanwhile, Ahmed rings the baro-traumatic center. While speaking in a language that I do not understand, he comes to look at the state of my finger.
In an attempt to warm me up, Didier helps me to remove the top of my diving suit and surrounds me with beach towels.

Obviously, the doctor on the other end agrees that I have to come to the center which is not far away.

On the way to the baro-traumatic center

Still in tears, always cold, pain and fear, I step with Didier and Ahmed in the van.

During the journey, far from the hot water, I have the clear feeling that my hand will explode and then … I have the impression that my finger becomes insensitive.

The center is very different from hospitals and other Belgian medical offices and is more like a dispensary in my mind which does not reassure me. However, the following will show me very competent people.

No cure but care

I shiver like a leaf in autumn. The doctor makes three injections in my finger to anesthetize the pain and look more closely. He concludes that this is a lion fish’s sting. Then he confirms that this is not dangerous but just very painful. As there is no specific cure, he then makes me one injection of a powerful painkiller and another of cortisone.

The effect of the anesthetic is fast and I can calm down. I feel a little better.

Then the doctor explains that the pain can last 48 hours but that there is nothing to do except take painkillers and anti-inflammatories.

It’s decided, I stop diving!

I thank the doctor and add that it is decided, I stop the diving, that it is too dangerous. He smiles, pats my shoulder and says paternally that I will not stop.

On the way back, I reiterate the fact that I stop diving. Didier my buddy smiles at my words (but he smiles). Ahmed tells me no, that I will continue and that it will also be part of my overall experience of the underwater world.  

Yeah, not my cup of tea, I would have done well without this kind of experience.

Then our driver, silent until then, shows me his hand. One of his fingers is wearing a long scar. He tells me that it is the result of the bite of a moray eel that he had not seen … But he continues to dive while being a little more careful. You remember from the article on moray eels ? If not, do not hesitate to read it to avoid this same incident.

Finally, and as if was by magic, the next morning, no more pain.

Therefore, I give up everything I said the day before and go to discover the seabed far, far away from the memory of this bite of lion fish. Even if for the divemaster and instructors of the center I would remain the diver stung by the lion fish and a lot of people will come to admire my exploration wound.

Hélène et Ahmed le lendemain de la piqure de rascasse

Lion fish’s sting: all you need to know

The lion fish’s sting, a frequent accident   ?

In the Coraya center in Marsa Alam, I was the second victim of a lion fish sting in 6 months time. However, given the number of dives per day performed in this center and the massive presence of lion fish, we can consider that the bite of lion fish is not an usual accident.  

How to react in case of lion fish’s sting ?  

  • Keep calm (although it’s easier said than done)
  • Get out of the water ASAP
  • Put your finger in hot water (40 ° C is good)
  • Call the doctor or, alternatively, take painkillers and anti-inflammatoires and go to the doctor as soon as you can.
  • Disinfect the wound well during the following days
  • Be patient, it will go away.

What to remember from this experience   :

  • Even knowing the underwater world, we are not immune to a bite, a sting or other.
  • In order to adopt a good behavior, it is better to know the dangers related to marine animals. I’m seriously thinking of getting a little more interested in underwater naturalist diving.
  • It is also advisable to inquire about the attitude to have in case of accident.
  • The sting of the lion fish is not dangerous. Moreover, it is not possible to keep a piece of thorn in your skin because they do not break (according to the doctor of the baro-traumatic center).
La piqure de rascasse est redoutable car le venin est contenu dans ses aiguillons

In conclusion, divers are right to be wary of lion fish or scorpion fish and its painful sting. Because, even if it is part of the ” total experience of scuba diving “, I would have done well to live without this very special moment.  

We are and will remain just guests of this wonderful underwater world.

And above all … do not forget to be happy