My Brush With a Sting Ray

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About eight years ago I had a brush with a stingray. Growing up on Long Island, I didn’t need to worry about rays because the water was too cold for them to be at our beaches. Therefore, I had no idea how to avoid them or what to do should I get stung.

Allow me to save you some pain and aggravation. Here are five things I wish I had known about stingrays BEFORE I was stung.⠀⠀⠀

1. Shuffle!

During mating season (about April to October), the rays bury themselves close to shore. They don’t see well, but they can feel your vibrations. I’m still a little scared to go in the water, but when I do, I make my presence known by shuffling rather dramatically. Don't worry about looking like an idiot. Locals know about the "Stingray Shuffle" and trust me when I say you'd rather shuffle than suffer the consequences because...

2. Getting stung by a ray HURTS!

It BURNS! Mine was a puncture wound, not a slash, and it felt like a stab. Adam thought I ripped my foot open and didn’t understand what my problem was when I showed him a tiny little wound. I’m usually pretty tolerant of pain, but this was bad.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

3. Soapy hot water is your friend!

Instincts tell you that you need ice in first aid situations. Not in this case! It only makes it hurt more.

“Drink alcohol,” said everyone around me. I had one beer while soaking my foot and and then a rum bucket a little later. I felt a little buzzed but certainly didn't experience any relief in my foot. Thank God I didn’t listen to the people who told me to pee on the wound...

Anyway, you can ask a lifeguard or someone at a concession stand or nearby restaurant to fill a clean bucket with soapy HOT, HOT, HOT, water!!! Again, don't feel silly! This past Labor Day weekend over thirty people were stung at Clearwater Beach alone, so many places are prepared with closets full of "foot barrels" for this very occasion. The hotter the water is, the better you’ll feel (just don’t burn yourself), and keep your foot submerged for a while. I’ve heard the hot water draws out the venom; I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it will bring about relief.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

4. See a doctor!

Turns out that beer and rum aren’t adequate treatments. You’re in the water, so the gunk in the water gets in the wound as you make your way out — yuck! Get the wound cleaned (you may also have a barb in there) and get antibiotics. Let me save you some Rx money and a trip to the doc and tell you to request antibiotics that specifically kill marine bacteria. I developed a nasty infection that almost required surgery; luckily the super bug juice I was finally prescribed worked. It took about two months to finally get the infection under control because I didn’t do the right things from the start.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

5. Stingrays are cute and are your friends! They are NOT aggressive, and they don’t mean to harm you. You are entering their home, so be a polite guest. You wouldn't walk into someone's house without alerting them of your presence, so do your shuffle, and you should be okay.