I'd like to find out more about poisoning from barnacles because I recently ended up in the hospital after scraping my dinghy and receiving a cut on my hand from what I think was a barnacle. All my lymph glands swelled up and I could not breathe and was placed on oxygen and a respirator. This incident occurred about two months ago and I am still suffering from dizzy spells and numbness and muscle spams. Do you know what causes all of this?
Sue & Larry respond:
We deferred to Bill Mahaffy, SailNet’s medical expert, regarding your quandary. Upon presenting him with your question, he immediately responded that what you had experienced was probably not poisoning, but rather invenomation. So what is invenomation? Good question. Actually, venom is a substance created by an animal, which must enter the bloodstream to do its damage. Poison is a substance that causes problems when it is taken orally, used topically, or inhaled. (Think of snakes; some are venomous, but none are poisonous, despite the titles of a several books.) So, had you not cut yourself and exposed your blood to the substances from the barnacles, you wouldn't likely have had these problems.
For more information on this malady, Mahaffy highly recommends that you refer to Dr. Paul Auerbach’s book, A Medical Guide to Hazardous Marine Life. We found this book available on line through barnesandnoble.com for $16.76. Have a look and that should better explain the incident to you. Here's hoping you stay healthy and out of the hospital from now on.