Stingray Sting

Reviewed on 9/30/2021

Facts You Should Know About a Stingray Sting

Stingrays sting usually when a swimmer or diver unintentionally steps on one.
Stingrays sting usually when a swimmer or diver unintentionally steps on one.
  • Stingrays have flat bodies with long, slender tails that have serrated spines, which contain venom.
  • Their serrated spines can cause lacerations (cuts) and puncture wounds.
  • Stingrays are widely distributed in tropical to temperate waters.
  • They are not aggressive, so an injury from a stingray usually occurs when a swimmer or diver unexpectedly steps on one.
  • Stingray stings are one of the most common dive and beach-related injuries.

What Are Signs and Symptoms of Stingray Stings?

What Is the Treatment for a Stingray Sting?

If medical attention is not readily available, the following guidelines are recommended in treating a stingray sting:

  • Flush the wound with fresh water.
  • For pain relief, soak the wound in water as hot as the person can tolerate (approximately 110 F, 43.3 C).
  • Use tweezers to remove the stingers.
  • Scrub the wound with soap and fresh water.
  • Do not cover the wound with tape or close it with stitches. Apply pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • Apply topical antibiotic ointment if signs of infection, such as pus, redness, or heat, occur.
  • Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary.

Oral antibiotics are usually recommended for infection.

  • Continue antibiotics for at least 5 days after all signs of infection have cleared.
  • Let the doctor know about any drug allergy prior to starting an antibiotic.
  • Use a sunscreen because some antibiotics may cause sensitivity to the sun.
  • Patients with an impaired immune system (for example, HIV, diabetes, cancer) should seek medical care.

When to Seek Medical Care for a Stingray Sting

  • Most stingray injuries require immediate medical attention.
  • A doctor should be consulted about treatment with available medications.

Stingray Pictures

Picture of a spotted eagle ray (sting ray)

Stingray spine. It is clear why these can cause either a puncture wound or a slashing laceration. The size of the spine depends on the size and type of the stingray. Toothpick to pencil size is typical. Photo courtesy of Cecil Berry

Picture of Stingray Spine, Photo Courtesy of Cecil Berry

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Stingray Sting Treatment

Do you have to go to hospital for stingray sting?

In most cases, a stingray injury should be handled in a hospital's emergency department. If the injured person is in severe distress with pain, bleeding, vomiting, and faintness, then call 911 for ambulance transport to a medical facility. Transport by ambulance, if available, is the best choice so treatment can begin en route.

If an ambulance is not available, go by car. If a boat ride is needed to shore, call ahead to arrange an ambulance or car for transportation to a medical facility.

A tetanus booster is needed if it has been more than 5 years since the last tetanus booster. Tetanus prevention is needed if the person has never had a tetanus vaccination.

Reviewed on 9/30/2021
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine

REFERENCE: "Marine Envenomations: Vertebrates."