What’s the first thing you should do if you ever fall into a pool full of stingrays? They may look super cute, but don’t let their friendliness fool you.
Because they’re also carrying a long, venomous, serrated stinger that could kill you at any moment. So should you swim out of there as fast as you can?
Or stay close to the surface of the water? Or should you just dance on the bottom of the pool?
The first thing you need to do when you find yourself swimming with stingrays is to keep your feet away from them.
One way to do this would be to stay as close to the surface as possible. But another, more fun way, would be to do something called the “stingray shuffle.”
This method involves carefully standing in the pool and shuffling your feet along the bottom in whatever direction you wish to go. It may look silly, but if you were to try and walk across the pool, you’d risk kicking or stepping on one of the stingrays.
And that would be a quick way to meet their deadly stinger. What is it about this thin spiny tail that can be so dangerous?
The long, sharp spine at the end of a stingray’s tail is known as its barb. If you were stung by the stingray’s barb, it would cause serious damage because it would go into your body smoothly, like a nail, but its serrated edges would tear up your tissues on the way out, like pulling out a screw.
And that’s just the beginning! As the serrated edges sink into you, the stingray’s venom would flow into your wounds.
The venom itself is not necessarily fatal, but it does hurt. A lot. It’s composed of the enzymes 5-nucleotidase and phosphodiesterase, and the neurotransmitter serotonin.
If you’re wondering why I’d even try to pronounce those three big names for you, it’s because they’re important, especially the last one. Serotonin causes smooth muscle to severely contract, and this is what makes the venom so painful.
Some victims, who have been stung in their feet, say that the pain is like squeezing your foot in a vise and twisting it. So let’s try and avoid that.
The first thing to keep in mind when you drop into a pool of stingrays is that they’re naturally docile creatures, who will only attack in self-defense. They’re so gentle that in the Cayman Islands, there’s even an extremely popular tourist attraction called Stingray City, where people feed and swim with large groups of stingrays.
But even though these stingrays are friendly, and love being fed, they still sting some people. The best way to avoid being stung is to make sure you don’t kick or step on any of the stingrays.
If a stingray feels threatened, it will flip its tail upwards over its body, striking whatever is in front of it. The stingray doesn’t control the release of its venom, only the movement of its tail.
If you accidentally step on one and get stung, you must try to get out of the pool as soon as you can, without getting stung again. If the wound is superficial, it needs to be treated right away. Pull the stinger out, and apply pressure on the bleeding to encourage the venom to come out.
It’s important to listen to your body, because it is possible to have a life-threatening allergic reaction to the venom. If you are sure that you’re not having an allergic reaction, use hot water around 43-46°C (110-115°F), to kill the venom and relieve the pain.
Once the pain has been relieved, apply antibiotic ointment or cream on the wound, and cover it with bandages. If the barb has punctured your abdomen, chest, throat or neck, or has completely gone through a part of your body, do not remove it. You need emergency medical treatment as soon as possible.
But, if you had just followed our advice from the beginning, you wouldn’t have to worry about any of this, because you would’ve been able to avoid getting stung. Stingrays aren’t really that dangerous if you treat them right, so when it comes to choosing creatures to swim with, you could do a lot worse.
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- “Potamotrygon Motoro (Motoro Stingray, P01, P03, P044) — Seriously Fish”. 2020. seriouslyfish.com.
- “Stingray | Definition, Species, Habitat, Size, & Facts”. 2020. Encyclopedia Britannica.
- “How a Passive Stingray Can Become Deadly”. Britt, Robert. 2006. livescience.com.