Knowing The ‘Stingray Shuffle’ Can Save Your Summer Beach Fun

A lifeguard sweeps the beach in Coronado. Photo courtesy of the Coronado Police Department

California’s sunny weather, beautiful beaches and cool waters make it a virtual playground for summer fun seekers. But enjoying the coast is not without risks. From stingy encounters to jellyfish stings, knowing what to do in an emergency could save your summer.

According to California State University Long Beach’s Shark Lab, most stickleback injuries occur between June and August. Afternoons are prime ticking times when the tide is lower, the waters are warmer and more people visit the beach.

Often hiding on the ocean floor, stingrays are hard to see and can deliver a painful sting when they feel threatened, usually by humans walking into their territory. A bunting will flap its tail to defend itself and can tear into anything it encounters – usually people’s legs, ankles or feet.

How to Avoid Stingrays

This is why, when walking in the ocean, you should use the “stingray shuffle”. Drag your feet through the sand to warn the stingray you’re coming and give it time to swim away.

If you—or another beachgoer—is stung in a location where lifeguards are stationed, notify them immediately. Rake wounds should be soaked in warm water for 30 to 40 minutes to neutralize the toxin.

You can try to remove the stinger, but if it’s too deeply embedded, a trip to the ER may be required for removal. Be sure to keep the wound clean and watch for signs of infection as it heals.

Dos and don’ts when jellyfish attack

The outlook is a little brighter when it comes to jellyfish. In general, California does not have poisonous jellyfish, so very few jellyfish stings require a trip to the ER.

Usually, jellyfish stings happen when people rub up against them in the ocean or touch them after they wash up on the beach. While most jellyfish stings are painful, they are not life-threatening.

The stings, called nematocysts, look like small capsules and attach to the skin, injecting a small amount of toxin. Pain and a red line will appear at the site of the bite.

It is necessary to remove the stings one at a time to stop further release of the toxin. It is best to use tweezers or a flat surface such as a credit card to remove them. Avoid using bare hands if possible.

Some additional tips

  1. DO NOT use vinegar to treat the sting. Recent studies show that it can make some bites worse.
  2. I AM DOING remove stings in salt water, then put in hot water. A mixture of baking soda and water can also be used to help remove bites.
  3. DO NOT urinated on the sting. (This is a myth and does not help.)

Tender meat and alcohol also do not help and can cause more toxins to be released. If the pain is not relieved after soaking and removing the stings, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen for relief.

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about a recent tick or jellyfish sting. And seek care if blisters form. there are signs of infection. or severe itching, redness or rash lasting more than 48 hours.

Dr. Julie Phillips is an emergency physician affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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