The venom that many catfish have in their spines and dorsal fins attacks the nerves in the area of the sting and breaks down red blood cells. Because of the poisoning of the nerves, the sting can cause severe pain, muscle spasms, and respiratory distress.
The pain from the catfish sting will typically resolve on its own, but there can be complications with secondary infections. The proper treatment of the sting is to wash it with warm or hot water — but not hot enough to burn you. If complications arise, see a doctor.
There is a proper technique to holding a catfish that I found, to avoid being stung. You want to hold the fish in the palm of your hand, with your fingers and thumbs on either side of its pectoral spines, keeping clear of the dorsal spines. Good luck!
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