The Gulf of Mexico is inhabited by a diverse group of marine orginisms and wild life. The most common problems our beachgoers encounter involve jellyfish and stingrays.
Jellyfish occur in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Many jellyfish are equipped with stinging cells – nematocysts which they use for defense and feeding. The tentacles of jellyfish contain thousands of these stinging cells and are activated when contact is made with another object i.e. swimmers.
The actual stinging involves the nematocyst firing a tiny barb into the victim along with injecting paralyzing toxins. Although not all jellyfish sting humans, the ones that do, usually leave welts and reddened skin with a rash-like looking appearance.
The affected area has a prickly or burning feel – some describe it as tiny electrical shocks going off on the skin. If you are stung by a jellyfish don't rub or scratch it, this only causes more stinging cells to fire and makes matters worse.
Seek a life guard for treatment. The treatment involves rinsing off the affected area with household vinegar.
Symptons and discomfort in most instances usually subside within 15 to 20 minutes. Children have the most trouble with this type injury, being unable to tolerate the burning and stinging sensations. If you see a jellyfish washed up on the shoreline don't touch it, jellyfish can sting long after they are dead.
Stingray season typically runs between April through Oct
Stingrays are capable of inflicting a laceration or penetrating type wound. The injury is serious and excruciatingly painful. Anyone who has suffered a stingray wound must take immediate and effective action in its treatment.
Although stingrays by nature are not aggressive creatures the problem arises when bathers unknowingly step on then. This happens close to the shoreline, anywhere between 3-10 yards from shore, where stingrays tend to burrow in the sand; usally during the summer months when they are searching for food or mating. Because they are hidden in the sand bathers entering the water can't see them and consiquently step on them. The stingrays reacts by swinging their tail striking the bather with its barb causing a wound to the foot, ankle or lower leg.
The barb located 1/3 of the way down their tail happens to be quite a formidable weapon. Measuring up to 6 inches long with razor sharp serrated edges pointing in one direction. In addition to inflicting a penetrating woumd the barb contains venom on its surface area.
This venom is heat liable; soaking the injured part in hot water will inactivate the venom and relieve the intense pain. The water should be as hot as one can stand it. Soaking the wounded area in hot water should be your first concern in treating this injury.
If you have a stingray accident your day at the beach will come to an abrupt end. Seek a lifeguard or if at an unguarded beach go directly to the nearest medical facility.
A purple flag will be flying from the lifeguard tower in addition to signs posted alerting you that dangerous marine life is in the area.
If you decide to go into the water when stingrays are present, shuffle or slide your feet along the bottom as you walk – commonly referred to as doing the "Stingray Shuffle". This action alerts the stingray in advance and he will swim off out of your path.