A sign near the pier where lifeguards have posted them Friday morning, November 24, 2017, warning surfers and beachgoers of a spike in stingray injuries, after 14 reports came in on Wednesday and an unusual spike of 42 on Wednesday, and another 20 on Thanksgiving Day in Huntington Beach, CA. (Photo by Ken Steinhardt, Orange County Register/SCNG)
There’s much to be thankful for this week — especially if you escaped excruciating pain after visiting local waters.
Huntington Beach lifeguards posted signs warning beachgoers of a spike in stingray injuries this week, after 14 reports came in on Tuesday, Nov. 21, followed by an unusual spike to 42 on Wednesday, and another 20 on Thanksgiving Day, said Huntington Beach Marine Safety Lt. Claude Panis.
“That’s how many we treated,” he said. “That doesn’t take into account how many went home without being treated.”
Stingrays injury reports have been on the upswing since the start of the year. The week started with the usual four to six reported injuries, but quickly climbed as victim calls came into lifeguards.
Panis said this week was a perfect storm for the increase in injuries with holiday visitors and children out of school, warm weather driving people to the beach, extreme low tides and small surf.
He expected more injuries on Friday and into the weekend.
“We’re going to be really active,” he said.
Since the start of the year, lifeguards have changed their response to how they treat victims. Rather than sending them to a room with buckets filled with hot water, lifeguards in trucks pull up to an injured person on the sand with a bag of hot water, treating them on the spot.
“It’s kind of become the new norm,” he said. “We deal with them every day.”
The increase in stingray hits isn’t just in Huntington Beach. Newport Beach lifeguards said they’ve averaged about 20 reports a day over the past week.
“I did 13 myself in Corona del Mar on Wednesday, and about sever (Thursday),” said Marine Safety Capt. Jon Mitchell.
He said they’ve been averaging five to 10 a day around the river jetty area.
“Everyone describes it as a pinch or a piece of glass, the stinger is serrated and tends to lacerate when it comes out, that’s where you get the bleeding,” Mitchell said. “Pain tends to be an hour or a couple of hours. It’s a protein-based venom. Hot water distills it or breaks it down.”
Seal Beach Marine Safety Officer Mike Diller said his city had eight stingray reports on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s a decent number, but it’s pretty common with the conditions that we currently have,” Diller said. “Small surf, low tide, hot weather, more people at the beach than we normally have this time of year.”
Lifeguards always recommend continuing to soak the injury in hot water and seeing a doctor after getting hit by a stingray because the injury is a puncture wound and can get infected.
Panis said that although surf is small and there are no rip currents, people should be aware of the hazard. The injuries seem to happen the most around low tide.
If beachgoers do want to get in the water, they should do the “stingray shuffle” — keeping their feet low to the ground and moving swiftly back and forth.
“Stingrays will give them a miserable day,” Panis said.