22 May Stung by a Stingray?
First things first: I am not a doctor or any sort of a trained medical person beyond the typical first aid. I have not needed to try the treatment here, which was passed on to me by other cruisers who have used it. Make your own decision, consult with your own doctor, investigate for yourself, etc. — I am not liable!
In the Sea of Cortez, where we cruised, stingrays often bury themselves in sand in anywhere from just a few inches of water to a few feet. And occasionally a wader will step on one and get stung. It hurts. A lot.
One of the first bits of “wading wisdom” that’s passed along to new cruisers is to always do the “stingray shuffle.” That is, if you’re walking in water, no matter how deep or shallow, shuffle your feet. Stingrays will detect your presence while you’re still several feet away and they’ll just swim off. Dave and I always did this and neither of us ever got stung.
But if you do get stung, there are three things to concern yourself with: an allergic reaction (very rare), pain and infection. Here, I’m primarily going to talk about a new way to treat the pain.
[Okay, we’ve all heard about the Croc Hunter (Steve Irwin) who died from a stingray barb in his heart. And some stingray venoms can cause respiratory problems and irregular heartbeats . . . all of those scenarios are very rare and way beyond the basic first aid here.]
Allergic reactions can be mild or severe — and treatment is no different for a stingray sting than anything else. Epi-Pen (and a trip to the nearest ER) for major anaphylactic reactions; Benedryl for less severe.
The long-accepted treatment for a stingray sting is to put the affected body part (usually the foot or leg) into as hot of water as you can stand for 30 to 60 minutes. The hot water will neutralize the venom.
Here’s the new piece of information that we learned on our recent trip to LoretoFest, which was told to me by several cruisers. Better yet, Don Cox aboard his Morgan 382 Interlude, had (unfortunately) had the opportunity to test it out. That’s a photo of Don at right. He and his wife Peggy were serving the Sunday pancake breakfast and stopped me in line as they wanted to share the info with TBG readers! And as they did, several other people chimed in with their own stories . . .
In Mexican pharmacies, you can get packets of “Baño Coloide” for about $1 US. Don is holding one in the photo — they are usually sold individually or in packages of anywhere from 3 to 10. The package says that it’s soy flour (harina de soya) . . . but I can’t find any information as to whether it’s the same soy flour you’d use in cooking or not.
All you do is dump the contents of the “Baño Coloide” packet in the hot water to soak the sting in. Don said that it instantly (and he made a point to say that it wasn’t even a few seconds) stopped the pain. He continued to soak his foot for a few minutes just to make sure . . . but the pain never came back or even twinged.
I have looked online and can’t find “Baño Coloide” or a medical “soy flour” for sale in the US. I also don’t find any documentation of using it to treat stingray stings. But the cruiser grapevine in the Sea of Cortez is certainly buzzing about it. Make your own decision . . . (obviously, don’t use it on anyone with a soy allergy)
I have also heard that using a substantial amount of meat tenderizer (about half of a typical “spice jar” container) helps to neutralize the pain, although not as quickly.
As with any wound, infection is very possible. Clean it carefully, getting all of the barb and dirt out of the wound (if the barb is in the head, neck or torso don’t remove it and get medical help fast), use lots of antibiotic ointment and keep a clean dressing on it, and watch for signs of infection. If the wound is severe or seems to be getting infected, get medical help. We know of several cruisers who needed oral antibiotics to get rid of nasty infections from stings.
To repeat: I’m not any sort of a medical professional. I wrote this article primarily to pass on the information on the “Baño Coloide” from Don. It is your decision to try it or not. If you have used it or anything else that worked well, please leave a note in the comments.