How to avoid an encounter with a stingray

Anyone who has experienced getting clobbered by a stingray will attest to the fact that it’s a surefire way to ruin your entire day. Although mostly prevalent through the months of May through October, stingrays inhabit the warm inshore waters of Guanacaste all year round. In Playa Guiones and other beaches, they often come close to shore and bury themselves in the sand in search of food.

Although relatively rare, stingray attacks still occur on the beaches of Nosara, so those entering the water should be aware of the situation. Firstly, it’s important to know that stingrays are not aggressive, and only sting when provoked. Nine times out of ten, this provocation occurs in the form of being accidentally stepped on, which is something they wish for about as much the person who stepped on them wishes to be stung.

Most often, this will cause the stingray to react by curbing its tail in a rapid, scorpion like motion, and basically stabbing the foot or lower leg of the person who stepped on it. After that, at a minimum, the victim can expect local trauma (from the laceration), and pain, swelling, and muscle cramps from the venom. If not treated this may result in infection from bacteria or fungi. Although the injury can be extremely painful, it is seldom life-threatening (unless the stinger pierces a vital area such as the thoracic wall of the heart, as in the case of animal wrangling Aussie adventurer Steve Irwin.)

Other stingray attack symptoms can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The pain from the wound may last anywhere up to 48 hours, but is usually at its most extreme for the first hour after the attack. During this period, the pain may be accompanied by nausea, fatigue, spreading cramps, headaches, fever, and chills. Additionally, stingray wounds may continue to bleed profusely and for a long time after the initial attack.

What to do if you get stung

For anyone unlucky enough to get stung, the best bet is to immediately flush the area out with fresh water. Then, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Luckily, Playa Guiones Paradise Medical Center, whose doctors are skilled veterans in dealing with these injuries, is close to the beach, and should be ones first port of call. In the unlikely event the victim shows any symptoms of an extreme reaction, such as cardiovascular issues, dizziness, or loss of consciousness, then medical help must be sought immediately.

First aid for stingray stings

The go to treatment for stingray stings is to place the affected appendage in hot water, which has been shown to ease pain. Why this is the case is unknown, but is thought to be because hot water denatures the stingray venom, and regulates the pain receptors. Pain may also be treated with local anesthetic in the area around the wound, bringing instant relief. Once the immediate pain is under control, antibiotics may be administered to stave off infection, particularly if any material from the stinger barb remains in the wound. Although this is rare, if it happens, it is advised that removal of this material be left to medical professionals.

How to avoid getting stung

The ‘stingray shuffle’ may sound like an obscure dance move. In fact, it’s a way of walking over the sand with the express purpose of letting the stingray know you’re coming, and thus avoid any chance encounters. Essentially, it means that instead of walking through the water as if you would on land, to slide your feet forward over the sand. That way, even if the stingray isn’t alerted to your presence by the vibrations, you’ll kick it side on, as opposed to the kind of aerial assault from above guaranteed to make it lash out. Again, remember stingrays don’t want to be stepped on anymore than you want to be stung. The stingray shuffle is an effective way to alert them to your arrival, encourage them to swim elsewhere, and put both parties out of harm’s way.

stingray nosara

One thought on “How to avoid an encounter with a stingray

  1. Roslyn Schwartz says:

    Great information. Thanks!

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