Stingrays are still abundant along the coast. Record breaking numbers of people getting stung have been reported every day. New Years day one year ago 20 people got stung at Newport Beach compared to an incredible 127 this year, and nearly 400 people in one week got stung in Huntington Beach.
What’s Behind the Surge in Stingray Attacks?
The Lifeguard battalion chief said the jump in stingray attacks begun in mid-July when water temperatures spiked. Water hit the high 70’s this summer. High temperatures and a drop off of surf conditions allowed the stingrays to move closer to the shore.
All summer long lifeguard stations were inundated with people stung by these docile creatures. Now the stingrays are still actively stinging, but there are few lifeguards around, because of winter hours. Even though the stingray venom is not deadly to humans, you will need immediate medical attention. Super hot water is a must, because it neutralizes the venom, and relieves you from hours of intense pain.
It is easy to spot people who have been stung, seconds after they’ve been stung, because they’ll come hopping out of the water. In the summer months, the stingray victims can be taken back to lifeguard headquarters, where the lifeguards soak the foot in hot water, until the pain subsides enough to send them on their way. That said, it is possible hundreds of people are using the same buckets each day. If the buckets are not sanitized correctly, blood borne pathogens like HIV and Hepatitis may contaminate the user, and you don’t have much choice, when you need to be treated, and you go to the beach unprepared.
Original Watermen and Russ Coletti created and patented the only known stingray kit that actually conforms to the CDC recommended treatment, by using exothermically heated water, without use of flames or external fuels. These stingray kits have become a necessity for every beachgoer. Parents should have one or two Ray-R Self Contained Stingray Kits in their beach going supplies, for their children.
Understanding the Stingray
The stingray is a flat body fish with wing like fins. Stingrays are hard to see because they usually lay hidden in the sand on the seafloor, for camouflage while resting or hiding from predators. Most are saltwater creatures, but a few live in fresh water.
When a stingray feels threatened the 6 to 8-inch spear which is serrated like a steak knife, stiffens. The stingray, thinking you are a predator, whips its tail and injects the knife-like barb into the body like an arrow point. The venom that is injected by the stingray barb causes a throbbing intense pain that will last for hours.
Stingray venom itself is a protein-based toxin that causes intense and immediate pain to the affected area. The toxin causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow and may also alter heart rate and respiration. The intensity of the pain from the sting reaches a peak during the first one or two hours after the incident. The first phase is the swelling and reddening of the skin. The second phase is local tissue necrosis. Tissue necrosis is basically the death of most or all of the surrounding tissue cells. There is no antivenom for the venom from a sting from a stingray.
What Do I Do if I am Stung?
After being stung by a stingray, immediately wash the wound in seawater to gently remove fragments of spine and tissue. It can be difficult to remove the fragments from the wound because of the back-facing barbs. After exiting the water if it is bleeding, apply pressure above the wound. A stingray kit will provide instant hot water for you to soak with, which deactivates the venom and relieves the pain. Soak the wound in the hot water until the venom dissipates or the pain no longer shoots back up the injured area, within five to 10 seconds. Afterwards, you should clean the wound with soap and water, and apply dressing, but do not tape it closed.
Can the Venom Kill Me?
Even though the venom from a stingray is not fatal, and will not lead to death, the venom, if not treated, can cause severe injury to the person infected with the stingray toxin. Always be prepared for a situation such as this, and carry a stingray kit, because, though they are usually friendly creatures, you never know when they could turn!