Stingray injury

A person may experience a stingray injury from the barb or spine on the tail of a stingray. The barb on the stingray’s tail may cause a cut or a puncture wound. Some wounds may have the barb stuck in them. Moreover, most barbs contain venom and may leave undesirable effects on the casualty. Stingrays are not aggressive animals; however, their barbs act as a defensive mechanism when they are in danger, for example, when a person steps on its tail. Injuries usually take place on the feet or legs.

A person who has just been stung by a stingray may have a laceration or puncture wound on the affected region of his skin. Sometimes a barb or part of a barb may be caught in the wound causing the skin around the wound to turn red, swollen and tender. The person may also experience additional symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, cramps and excessive sweating.

If you take the casualty to the hospital, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics, pain medication and may also advise a tetanus shot to reduce the risk of infection. Severe injuries may require surgery to repair the wound or sting raysurgically remove the barb stuck in the wound.

Disclaimer: the material posted on this page on stingray injuries is for learning purposes only. To learn how to recognize and manage these injuries sign up for first aid and CPR training.

Causes

A stingray may not attack you; however, it will defend itself by stinging you if you step on it or frighten it in any way. A stingray whips up its tail and injures the attacker in order to defend itself. A stingray may cause a laceration or a puncture wound by penetrating a barb or spine from its tail to the person’s body. The barb or spine contains venom and may cause excruciating pain and tissue damage.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of stingray injuries include:

  • Lacerations
  • Puncture wounds
  • Foreign body in the skin – part of the stingray’s barb may be caught in the wound
  • Redness of the skin around the wound
  • Swelling of the skin around the wound
  • Bruises on the skin
  • Tenderness around the wound

A person with a stingray injury may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal injury
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fainting

Treatment

Follow these treatment steps if a person has been injured by a stingray:

1. Bathe the affected region in sea water

  • While the casualty is still in the water, make sure he wets the wound well enough to remove debris from the barb
  • Get the casualty out of the water

2. Stop bleeding

  • Use a clean fabric to apply pressure on the wound to control bleeding. If blood soaks through, place another material on top of the first

3. Bathe the wound in hot water

  • Soaking the wound in hot water until bleeding stops will make sure the venom from the barb is deactivated to ease pain
  • If bleeding is persistent, apply a hot pack on the wound
  • If pieces of barb or spine are visible, gently remove them from the skin. If the neck, chest or abdomen is injected with the spine, do not remove the barb pieces. Seek medical help immediately

4. Wash the wound with soap and water

  • Scrub the wound thoroughly
  • Apply dressing on the wound – do not tape it

Learn More

To learn more about helping victims of stingray injuries sign up for St Mark James first aid and CPR courses – register here.

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