Stung by a Stingray?

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2013 • all rights reserved

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 Reaction

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.

Pain

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.

Don-with-BC

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.

Infection

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.

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Comments

  1. Mike McCollough says:

    I did the boil your foot technique. I had heat and water. I was though 2 and 1/2 hours away from assistance. A few hours afterward it was gone. I then did the same for a minor, parent and minor’s consent of course. You put your foot in hot water, which hurts worse, the sting or the water, add hot water until the water is just bearable. When the sting gets stronger then add more hot water.

  2. No stingray problems here, but I get a horrible rash when snorkeling sometimes. It feels like little bee stings when it happens, then the rash gets progressively worse for a few days and lasts 6 weeks. Does this happen to anyone else? Any suggestions?

    • Where are you? And are you wearing a wet suit or lycra? All over your body or in a smaller area?

    • In Belize now but have gotten these in the Sea of Cortez, too. Didn’t wear a lycra suit this time, but I have one. All over my body including on the outside of my ear.

      • Deb Marshall says:

        Might be Seabathers Eruption, or “sea lice”. Instructions for care are on the web, a little complicated to explain how sea lice irritation occurs, but if you don’t notice a rash until after you have showered in fresh water, then it’s probably sea lice. This product from Mexico might work, no experience with using it. Cortisone cream is supposed to help, but more importantly you are supposed to get out of your wet swimsuit immediately after getting out of the sea, and bathe in clean SALT water, including washing your hair. Fresh water activates something that causes the irritation. And your swimsuit should be washed with soap and salt water as well. Hope this helps and that you are feeling better soon.

    • I have no idea. If in a limited area, i thought maybe some small jellyfish with a mild sting. But if all over, i don’t know. Maybe ask at a local dive shop?

    • Deb Eldridge — Check back on this comment that a reader left on the site: https://theboatgalley.com/stung-by-a-stingray/#comment-9799

  3. I unfortunately have had a personal experience with getting stung while I was a teenager in Naples, FL. I can say that it was honestly the worst pain I have ever experienced. When we called 911 they said to put your foot in as hot of water as you can stand. I tell you had it in nearly boiling water! I wish I had that powder back then!

  4. I just snorkeled on several islands north of La Paz. No problems. Just bees looking for water. And sand fleas on Isla San Jose.

  5. Yup, stepped on a ray on Chicken beach in Melaque. Had the ‘local’ remedy.. I could feel the venom going up my leg. Have never felt this kind of pain!! After the remedy, I could feel it going back down my leg. 3 hours later, was like it didn’t even happen. There is still a little scar tissue where it got me.. I heard that some victims that went to the hospital for treatment ended up with infections.

  6. They’re nasty. Glad you had such a good recovery.

  7. Yes the hot water trick is amazing! My husband was stung in the Sea of Cortez and was about to pass out from the pain until a knowledgeable local got a bag of hot water which was placed on the sting.

  8. The translation of bano coloide is colloid bath, or to bathe in something soothing. That could be oatmeal, sodium bicarbonate or in this case, soy flour. It would be worth a shot!

  9. Hot water mixed with betadine is what my husband was given at the ER for catfish barb in the hand. Took about an hour for the pain to completely subside.

  10. On a diff note, “The Artist Way” book that you talked about in your new year’s post is changing my life! Thank you for that:)

  11. Have looked for Bano Coloide in the Bahamas. Not found. Yet!

  12. My wife had a very painful encounter with a stingray only a week ago while a couple of hours away from medical assistance. Here’s what we did.
    http://dreamtimesail.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/stingray-strike.html

  13. i was stung by a ray in honeymoon island. It was the worst pain I ever experienced in my life. It looked like such a little cut that it was hard to understand why I was in so much pain and why the pain was radiating up my leg and my foot was getting red. I couldn’t even sit still, it hurt to walk, just unbearable. I was doing some research online for poisonous sea animals in the gulf and came across the sting ray and comments sounded just like what I was experiencing. Placed my foot under running hot water for about 1 min and instantly the pain went away. A few seconds later the pain started to come back but not as intense and then the pain subsided. A day later, my ankle feels tender which is very near the area I was stung, and as the day progressed my foot started having some pain/ mild/ uncomfortable and a little swelling, took some Advil and Benadryl and it started to feel better. I have made a conscious effort to periodically wash and clean my foot (sting area) with hydrogen peroxide, betadine, and neosporin triple antibiotic and that seems to be helping. Hopefully tomorrow the foot will heal more and the swelling will go away and I won’t need antibiotics. This is my fist encounter with a stingray sting and I hope it will be helpful to someone.

    • Now a week later…no oral antibiotics taken, just topical wound care of hydrogen peroxide, betadine, and antibiotic daily. I cover the area with a bandaid during the day while wearing shoes and at night while sleeping to avoid the puncture area rubbing on anything. It was healing nicely until exactly a week later it began itching and the puncture site got a little red and inflamed. Didn’t think much of it until that night I was awoken by more intense itching around the area, not sure if the itching got worse due to me walking that day on the treadmill, which by the way I had purposely refrained from since I was stung to avoid any issues. I was looking up others experiences a week later and it seems like almost all people reported itching as well, some with cellulis resulting in antibiotics needed, others with just some redness in the area and itching and told by their doctor to take Benadryl and all will be well. Hopefully that latter one will be the case for me.

      • Just an update. Did end up having to go to the hospital. Was there for about 5 days due to a cellulitis infection. Received 2 different IV antibiotics. In retrospect, I should have gone to the emergency room for immediate treatment, Not hope that everything will just be ok and play the “wait and see” game.

  14. ryan barickman says:

    I stepped on a 5 pound ray once while shuffling my feet in sarasota Florida, he got stung me right on the bottom of my big toe, it didnt hurt that much until i walked back to shore, honestly it was the worse pain in my life for about 3 hours. I used hot water when i got home, i had a bad allergic reaction to the sting that i had to go to the hospital, my hands kept making a fist and i couldnt move them at all for about an hour. BTW*** shuffling your feet only works in the surf in the ocean and not bays or rivers. Look out for them cause they will ruin your day lol

  15. In addition to the above treatments, Dombro powder, available in most Mexican farmacias, as well as some CVS drugstores in the US, is very effective in relieving the pain of stingray and stonefish venom. When mixed into hot water, it provided almost instant relief from the excruciating pain my wife was suffering after stepping on a stonefish in shallow water in the Sea of Cortez.

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