Avoid Stings and Bites This Holiday

Stingrays bury themselves in sand, where unwary swimmers can step on them in the shallows.

The prospect of a four-day weekend will bring holidaymakers to Santa Barbara’s beaches and hiking trails, but Cottage Health has a warning for the unwary, namely about snakes and stingrays. Six people have reported to emergency rooms since June for stings, which are extremely painful, Cottage spokesperson Maria Zate said. Three have come in for snake bite.

Rattlesnakes are a common California inhabitant of the Santa Barbara foothills and back country, as are numerous non-venomous snakes. Rattlers are usually found in grasses and underbrush, and they often rest on warm rocks or trails. If you come across a rattlesnake, Cottage says to back away slowly. If struck, keep the bite area below the heart to slow the spread of venom and get medical help immediately.

A spike in stingray stings started at Santa Barbara beaches in 2015, said Tony Sholl, aquatics director for city Parks and Rec. Do the “stingray shuffle,” said Sam Macks, interpretation manager at the Sea Center on Stearns Wharf, through the sand when entering the warm shallows of the Pacific, which is where stingrays like to hang out. If you are stung, hot water, as hot as you can stand, can break down the toxins and alleviate the pain. Soak for an hour to 90 minutes and seek medical help. “No, urine doesn’t work for a stingray,” she said, which has become an urban legend for jellyfish stings.

California rattlesnake

A record number of stings were reported down south in Huntington Beach in December 2017, attributed to a low tide taking beachgoers deeper into the tidal zone and the “blob” of warm water present offshore since 2014, according to a National Geographic report. Locally, the city posts signs at the tide line when stings are on the increase, said Sholl, and notifications are also at guard towers.

Correction: This story was corrected on July 5, 2019, to state that the pain of stingray stings was from the barb and toxins, not a “chemical.”

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