A day at the beach can really sting on Longboat Key.
Dr. Pamela Letts, of the Centre Shops Family Practice, reports that she has averaged at least one or two patients injured by stingrays each day for the past three weeks.
During a single week in mid-October, Longboat Key Fire Rescue treated six patients who had been stung by stingrays, according to Fire Chief Paul Dezzi.
“Not only did we respond to a lot of them, but we had a lot of people walking into the fire department who had been stung,” Dezzi said.
One patient had to be transported to a hospital because his blood pressure remained low after the sting.
According to Hayley Rutger, public relations coordinator at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, Atlantic stingrays and Southern sting rays are the two types of local species that burrow in the sand and may occasionally sting people who step on them.
Rutger said it’s not surprising to learn about more stings in late summer and early fall.
“These local species of bottom-dwelling rays give birth to their young, or pups, around June and July, and those pups tend to spend their first summer of life in the surf zone, where they feed — of course, this means they’re in shallow waters shared by beachgoers. By the end of the summer, they’re the size of a saucer or dish. As weather cools, they tend to move away from the surf,” she wrote in an email.
There isn’t enough scientific data to make a statement about population trends, according to Rutger.
So, what should you do if stung by a stingray?
Apply hot water and pressure to the wound, seek medical attention to ensure the barb isn’t under the skin, and get a tetanus shot and possibly antibiotics.
Stings from stingrays are considered a defense mechanism.
The “stingray shuffle” can help beachgoers avoid stings.
The shuffle involves shuffling your feet through the sand once you’ve stepped in the water to provide a series of vibrations that warn stingrays of your presence and provide them the opportunity to get out of the way
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].