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Some of the tastiest fish live among the coral reefs, like barracuda, grouper and snapper. However, these fish occasionally cause ciguatera—a foodborne illness.  Cooking the fish does not destroy the toxin that causes ciguatera—and you can’t smell or taste it.


Though usually not serious, you can experience unpleasant symptoms from ciguatera. Temperature reversal is a common symptoms: Hot things may feel cold to you and cold things may feel hot. For most people, symptoms subside in a few days, but they can sometimes last months or even years. Children are known to experience more severe symptoms than adults.

Consulting with a healthcare provider can aid in your recovery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests avoiding fish, caffeine, alcohol and nuts for at least six months after recovery to avoid a relapse.

Symptoms typically begin between 3-6 hours after consuming the fish:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Tingling sensation
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling sensations in your mouth or teeth
  • Tooth pain or feeling as if your teeth are loose
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Nerve pain

IPC advises you to purchase fish from only reputable sources. If you suspect fish may have caused ciguatera, it’s important to contact IPC at 1-800-222-1222. We’ll help identify the source and work with local authorities to ensure the fish is removed from sale to prevent a public health emergency.

How do you get ciguatera?

  • Eating contaminated reef fish such as barracuda, grouper and snapper
  • Consuming contaminated reef fish

What to do

  • Call IPC at 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a toxicology expert 24/7. Calls are free and confidential.
  • Contact your healthcare provider and local health department.

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