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Services Provided by:
FL/USVI Poison Information Center – Jacksonville

Outdoor Hazards

The beautiful islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John are a vacation destination for tourists and a local resource for residents. Unfortunately, in addition to its natural beauty there are some outdoor hazards to be aware of. Click on the topic below to read more about it.

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There are a wide variety of jellyfish and all can sting. If stung by a jellyfish:

  • Go back into the ocean to rinse the affected area and wash off any remaining stinging tentacles.
  • Do NOT urinate on the sting.
  • Spray affected area with vinegar spray.
  • Watch for allergic reactions.
  • Call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 for further treatment advice.

Sea Urchins

Sea urchins have sharp spines radiating out of their body. Look before you step down when swimming or walking in the water. Getting the spines into your skin can cause severe burning pain to the site that can last for up to a month. If left unattended an infection can occur. If you step on an urchin:

Call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 for advice on how to safely remove the spines and receive recommendations on continued care.


stingrayStingrays can bury themselves in the sand so you cannot easily see them. If stepped on, they may swing their tail up on reflex which can stab you in the leg or abdomen with one or two poisonous spines that are located at the base of their tail. These wounds can be very painful and if left unattended can result in an infection.

Call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 for treatment advice on first aid and receive recommendations on continued care.

Ciguatera Fish Poisoning

Ciguatera fish poisoning is caused by eating contaminated fish. Cooking the fish will not inactivate the toxin. The ciguatera toxin may be present in the food chain of the fish and is most commonly found when eating large reef fish like grouper, snapper, barracuda, amberjack, hogfish, and others. You can neither taste nor smell the toxin and it can cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, sweating, headache, weakness, tingling tongue or fingers, or sensation of “cold things feeling hot.”

Symptoms may be delayed after eating the fish. It is important to get treatment right away. Call 1-800-222-1222 if you think you may have eaten a contaminated fish or are showing symptoms. The healthcare professionals at the poison center can help by providing treatment advice.

Insects and Spiders

  • Scorpions
    • Active at night and rarely seen
    • They use stinger at end of tail
    • Sting is equivalent to bee/wasp sting
  • Tarantulas/”Ground Spiders”
    • Live in holes dug in dry soil
    • Can be 4-5 inches wide with legs spread out
    • Can bite and may be painful
    • Not seriously dangerous to humans
  • Giant Crab Spiders
    • Can reach widths of over 3 inches
    • Have large fangs that they use to inject venom
    • Not seriously dangerous to humans


Plants can be poisonous, produce severe irritation or can result in obstruction in the throat when curious children or pets taste or eat them. Some of these can produce serious poisoning. The poison center recommends knowing the names of the plants in your house and yard and removing the toxic species from play areas to prevent accidental ingestion by children or pets.

One of the most common toxic trees on the Virgin Islands is the Manchineel Apple Tree, also known as the “Beach Apple” and the “Death Apple.”

  • The tree is found near and on beaches, reaches up to 50 feet high and has a greyish bark.
  • The green fruit is poisonous, can cause blistering and pain to the mouth and throat.
  • Standing under the tree during a rainstorm can cause severe irritation to the skin.

Other poisonous and irritating plants in the Virgin Islands include:

  • Jimson Weed
  • Pencil Bush
  • Christmas Bush
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Prickly Pear

More information on poisonous and irritant plants in the Virgin Islands can be found in this National Park Service brochure.