Stingray Attacks Cause Intense Pain

Back in 1991, I was on a windsurfing trip near Lareto in Baja, Mexico. As I was taking off my wetsuit after a day on the water, I took my right foot out of my sandal and stepped – barefoot- on the rocky shoreline. Bad move. As I put my foot down, I saw something move, then felt a shocking jolt of pain through my lower extremity. I had been “stung” by a Stingray. The next two days were sheer agony.

In a normal situation, I would have been heavily medicating myself with Percoset and other hard-core painkillers to treat the two-inch wide, sword-like laceration on the bottom of my foot. But unfortantely I was on a NOLS trip, and NoLS had a strict anti-med policy for their students. After one or two Tylenols, I was told to sweat it out. Pretty hard, especially when my NOLS instructor talked non-stop about how he treated his own stingray incident with a half-pound of Hashish off Vietnam.

When I relay this story to my friends, they all ask: “Did you pee on your wound to stop the pain?” Well, maybe it was my young age, or the fact that I hadn’t yet seen the infamous jellyfish episode on Friends, but I didn’t even try it. Rather, I rallied my friends to help me heat a gallon of sea water and soaked my foot for 36 hours straight. When the temperature got too cold, the pain was awful; too hot, and I risked burning my skin.

Since this run-in, I have accumulated a lot of facts about stingrays, including:

– The Sting in stingray is produced by the serrated spines of their tails. These spines contain venom.
– I was lucky – even though I was in excruciating pain, I didn’t have an adverse reaction to the venom. Some stings result in infection and require antibiotics.
– Applying a citric acid such as grapefruit or orange juice will hrt like heck, but will help clean a sting wound.
– Applying vinegar can help neutralize stingray venom.
– If you’re in sting-ray country, shuffling your feet while walking can help scare away stingrays. They’re not aggressive by nature they only sting when provoked (like, when I stepped on one).

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