It’s Stingray Season

Better Listen up to our Boyscout lesson, as you may need it

Stingrays have been plentiful this year, so watch where you’re walking. Shuffle your feet to scare them off if you’re wading in the ocean, don’t step down on one, that pisses them off and they will sting. And that will be painful, in the extreme.  But, although they are alarming and quite painful, stingray wounds are rarely fatal, unless you’re stung in a vital place. (I don’t know about you, but we’re thinking all our places are vital to us.)  Other reasons for dying from a sting ray is if you’ve bled too much, (try not to bleed), allergic reaction, (try not to be allergic), or secondary infection. (Keep it clean).

This stingray looks pretty easy to spot but that’s because he hasn’t dug himself into the sand like they often do. Either shuffle your feet or toss a rock into water you’re going to be wading in. This is stingray lingo for, “please find another beach because I’m coming in.”Stingrays have a flat body with one or two barbed stingers located midway on the tail. They are extremely hard to see against the sand when water is washing over them, so it is understandable if you get stung. These guys normally live in coastal tropical and subtropical marine waters, (like ours), and sometimes seem to lurk there just waiting to be stepped on so they can get pissy about it.

Here’s what to do about a sting and a rundown on just how much trouble you’re in.

You will experience: Pain, swelling, bleeding, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, dizziness/light-headedness, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, and sometimes fainting. Altogether, no day at the beach.

First, you want to prioritize the severity of your symptoms. Medically speaking, certain symptoms are more serious than others. Determine if you are developing an allergic reaction, suffering from excess blood loss, or experiencing venom intoxication. If you have any of these symptoms you should scoot right to a doctor. Of course, how do we know what constitutes “excess” bleeding? We’re kind of partial to retaining all our blood, and any loss is excess to us.

Allergic reaction is a bad sign and includes swelling of tongue, lips, head, neck, or other body parts; difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or wheezing; red and/or itchy rash; fainting or loss of consciousness.

Venom intoxication is also a bad sign and includes headache, dizziness, light-headedness, palpitations, muscle cramps, and seizures

Now for some practical advise, we figure we’ve scared you enough.

Irrigate the wound with sea water, removing all debris and foreign stuff from the wound. Use tweezers from first-aid kit if necessary. (You didn’t bring a first aid kit? What were you thinking?) Once the area is thoroughly irrigated and all foreign bodies are removed, even if you have to pick those foreign bodies out with your fingers, come out of the water and dry the area off with a clean towel, taking care not to injure yourself further. You do still have a somewhat clean towel, don’t you? Well, use a somewhat clean T shirt.

Do not remove any penetrating debris if it’s in your neck, chest, or abdomen. Now we’re talking a higher level of triage, and now would be a good time for that doctor run.

Control your bleeding. Bleeding is common after a sting. As always, the best way to stop bleeding is by applying direct pressure at the source or slightly above the source with one finger for a few minutes. The longer the pressure is held, the more likely the bleeding will subside.

Try using hydrogen peroxide in conjunction with holding pressure to help stop bleeding if you cannot control it with direct pressure alone. You came to the beach without your bottle of hydrogen peroxide? Don’t you think at all?? The hydrogen peroxide is going to sting even more, deal with it.

Soak the wound in hot water. You can combine this step with the previous step of applying direct pressure to control bleeding. Soaking the wound in hot water helps alleviate the pain by denaturing the venom protein complex. A good temperature is 45°C (113 °F), but be certain not to cause any burns. You have enough problems without burns. Leave the wound soaking for 30 to 90 minutes, or until the pain has subsided.

Monitor the wound for signs of infection. Proper wound care includes keeping the area clean by applying soap and rinsing with water as well as keeping the wound dry at all times. Keep the wound uncovered and apply antibiotic ointment daily.

Over the next several days, if the area becomes red, tender, itchy, sore, or begins to swell or develop a cloudy discharge, scoot yourself to a doctor because you may need antibiotics and/or drainage of an abscess.

One last thing: Don’t pee on the wound. That’s an old wives’ tale, it’s not good doctoring. Come to think of it, have you ever seen a good doctor take a whiz on any wound? No, we haven’t, so why would you do that with a ray attack? Because your grandpa told you to? He was screwing with you. Or he was just a stupid old grandpa.