Above is a video I shot of a stingray swimming in shallow water in Charlotte Harbor on Pine Island.
There are many types of rays in Florida waters. Most of them can cause you no harm. The Sting Ray can cause a painful wound. They lay on the sandy bottom partially covered with sand. Sometimes only their eyes are poking out of the sand. Sting Rays have a sharp bony barb at the base of their tails. If you step on the animal, it reacts by lashing its tail at your foot. The barb does have venom and it causes a very painful wound which can easily produce a nasty infection.
The best way to avoid Sting Rays is to shuffle your feet when you are walking in the water. During some months the rays are particularly common and it is not unusual to see a dozen or more swimming away if you are the first person in the water. They are not terribly shy and will allow you to approach quite closely before fleeing.
Yes, I have been speared by a Sting Ray. It was a very very small one and it stuck me in the toe. I lived. Actually I am amazed that in all the years I spent surfing, paying no attention whatsoever to where I was stepping, I only got stuck once. Sting Ray season is generally May through October. Actually, the most painful wound I ever got was when I was paddling my surfboard and impaled my hand on the top spine of a catfish that happened to be swimming underneath me. I had to shake it off my hand. That really hurt and was the end of surfing for that afternoon.! What do you suppose the odds of that happening are?
What if you get stuck by a stingray?
If you are injured by a Stingray, wash the area with salt water. Remove any foreign material from the wound. Alert the lifeguard if there is one. Lifeguards know how to handle Stingray wounds. Soaking the wound in water as hot as the injured person can stand it for 30 - 90 minutes helps relieve the pain.
Deep wounds from large Stingrays and wounds to the abdomen or chest are very serious and the person should be taken to the hospital right away. Most injuries are to the feet and legs. If you are fishing and catch a Stingray, even if it is out of the water it can stab you by flipping its tail violently.
It is highly unusual for a person to die as a result of a stingray injury, however, there are at least three recorded incidents around the world resulting in a death. A deep injury to the chest, neck, head, or abdominal cavity, or an arterial puncture could most certainly result in death.
Stingray Injury First Aid Kit
Ocean Care Solutions provides effective, medically supported First-aid pain relief products for marine stings including the Portuguese Man O War, Stingray, Sea Urchin, Fire Coral and, a variety of jellyfish sting injuries.
These kits contain everything you need to treat most injuries from a stingray as well as stings from other venomous marine animals. They are packaged in lightweight, waterproof, sealed foil bags that are easy to keep in a beach bag, car, boat or fishing tackle box. Visit the Ocean Care Solutions web site for more info and to order the kits that fit your needs.
If You've Suffered a Stingray Injury
From time to time I get an email from someone with lasting effects from a stingray injury. Their doctors have done all they can to treat them, but they are still having pain and are looking for answers. Unfortunately I cannot be much help since I'm not a doctor. But I've compiled the following list of links that may help:
Epidemiology, Evaluation, and Management of Stingray Injuries. Article from the Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society.
Stingray Envenomation of the Foot: A Case Report. From the Foot and Ankle Journal.
Stingray Injury Case Reports. From Clinical Toxinology.
I'll keep looking for more info on stingray injuries and how to treat them. Anytime I find additional info that I think is new or different, I'll put a link to it here.
More detailed information on stingrays, stingray injuries, and how to avoid being injured by a stingray can be found in my FREE downloadable Beach Survival Guide. My book is a pdf file. It is called Beach Survival Guide: How to Be Safe From Sharks, Jellyfish, Stingrays, Rip Currents and other Scary Things. Follow the link for more info and to download the book.