Stingray Sting Facts
- 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.
Stingray Sting Symptoms
- The person feels immediate, sharp, excruciating pain that peaks in 1-2 hours.
- The wound bleeds.
- The wounded area may become swollen and may turn blue or red.
- Lymph nodes may become swollen.
- Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, muscle cramps, tremors, paralysis, fainting, seizures, elevated heart rate, and decreased blood pressure may develop. Death may even occur.
Stingray Sting Treatment
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.
Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine
Alertdiver.com. Marine Envenomations: Vertebrates.