I’ve been off the radar the past 2 weeks as I got all my classes started and situated. Even though I’m not quite caught up yet, I know some of you are pining for attention. Today and this upcoming week, we’ll seek the surf:
Surfer dude student who part-times as a lifeguard in “Surf City,” Huntington Beach, asked me a question in A&P about sting ray bites: why do they use warm/hot water? What does it do?
Here’s the answer!
Soaking the sting area with hot water (as hot as you can stand!) will denature (break down) the protein that’s at the center of the stingray venom.
Sources say that most proteins found in mammals (granted the stingray isn’t a mammal, but I wanted something to relate to) denature at 43 °C (109.4 °F). Another source (Slaughter) states specifically for stingrays, you want the water to be 45 °C (113 °F).
By doing this you can alleviate the pain and other after-effects. Other signs and symptoms of stingray stings can include:
- Fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, tremors, decreased blood pressure, (and we already mentioned pain).
- More severe, and more rare, symptoms can include paralysis, seizures.
So besides hot water, antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent infection of a deep wound or if there’s a delay in treatment. I’d want to give a local anesthetic to numb the pain.
For a deep wound, you’d want to go to a hospital. Surgery may be required to clean out dead tissue “killed” by high concentrations of venom in the area – this is called “debriement.”
Remember to shuffle your feet when you’re in the sand!
- Slaughter RJ, Beasley DM, Lambie BS, Schep LJ (2009). “New Zealand’s venomous creatures”. N Z Med J 122 (1290): 83–97. PMID 19319171.