Stingrays can be found swimming in the warm shallow water at every beach in Florida, they are very shy and not aggressive. Injuries from stingrays occur when the stingray gets frightened from a person unexpectedly stepping on them. When stepped on, they will whip their long thin barbed tail into your foot or ankle leaving behind traces of venomous toxins. The sting is powerful and incredibly painful.
You can lower your chances of being stung by a stingray by learning a little about them, and what you can do to avoid them.
Florida stingray season is April through October. They are often found very close to the beach, burying themselves in the sand to hide from predators. Stingrays have extremely poor eyesight; they use electro-sensors/vibrations to know what’s going on around them. To avoid stingrays, do not run and jump into the gulf water with large steps, shuffle your feet in the sand lightly as you move out into water, this will help push vibrations out in your surrounding area. This shuffling will let the stingrays know you’re in the area and they will most likely move away from you.
What to do if you’re stung by a Stingray
If you are stung by a stingray, immediately get out of the water. If you have trouble walking, which is normal, sit down and ask someone nearby to get help. Because stingray injuries hurt so much, medical attention is usually warranted. Pain management, wound care, a tetanus vaccine update and antibiotics are the most likely treatments. If the barb has punctured and broken off into your foot or ankle don’t attempt to remove it. Seek emergency medical attention immediately.
If pain is tolerable and no broken barb is embedded in your foot or ankle, clean and disinfect the puncture wound with soap and water and immediately start soaking your foot in hot water, this will neutralize the venom and eventually reduce the pain. The hotter the water, the better. Oral pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can be taken, Follow up with medical care is advised.
Reviewed by Ronald D. Troxell, D.P.M.
Dr. Troxell offers both conservative and surgical management to the lower extremity. Ronald treats all aspects of the foot and ankle, from ingrown toenails and skin lesions to complex fractures and nerve pain. He specializes in arthroscopy, trauma, bunions, Charcot, total ankle arthroplasty, complex reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle, and sports medicine.