As beach season kicks into high gear, swimmers, surfers and sunbathers of all ages should be mindful that one wrong step can turn a fun beach day into a total wipeout.
Unwitting beach goers can easily get stung by a stingray when they inadvertently step on the creatures while walking though waters. Lurking stingrays are often invisible because they burrow and blend in well with the sand in shallow waters.
When disturbed, the ray flips up its sharp tale and can pierce the swimmer’s leg, foot or ankle. Though not venomous, the stings are painful and the stinger’s puncture wound poses a risk of infection or allergic reaction, says Sheryl Riccardi, a registered nurse and clinical educator in the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC.
Treatment for stings is simple, Sheryl says. First, parents of children who have been stung should remove the stinger. Next, soak the wounded area in hot water until the pain is gone. Other methods to remove the stinging sensation include a vinegar rinse or baking soda paste, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers.
Stings should be reported to lifeguards, and parents of stung children should seek further medical treatment if the wound is still store or burning about 24 hours after the sting occurs, Sheryl says.
Though particularly common in areas with long beaches and shallow waters, stings can be prevented.
Try practicing what lifeguards call the “stingray shuffle.” Instead of taking full steps through shallow waters, drag feet across the sand. The goal is to gently disturb a burrowed ray so that it will swim away. Stepping on top of the creature will frighten it and increase the likelihood of an attack.
While much less common in Orange County than in other U.S. waters, jellyfish stings should be handled in the same manner as stingray stings.