Stingray sting treatment

Well, stingrays are in the news; but this isn’t about Steve Irwin.

A biologist on CNN just said that the way to immediately treat a stingray sting is to pour water as hot as people can stand onto the wound. (Further treatment includes watching for bacterial infection.) I used to launch my kayak at Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey. It’s a popular place for swimming because the water is shallow and warm. Its sandy/muddy bottom is the perfect place for stingrays (and there are timid little sharks there too). I’m pretty sure I saw chemical ‘ice packs’ available at the lifeguard station, which I assumed was for stingray stings.

  1. Has ice ever been a treatment for stings?

  2. Is it possible that what I took for ‘ice packs’ were really ‘hot packs’? If so, does heat alone alleviate the pain from stingray stings; or is there something about pouring hot water onto it that is better?

(And yes, I shuffle when I walk in the water at Mother’s Beach.)

My understanding about heat and venom is that the heat breaks down venom and helps prevent it from spreading through your system at full strength.

Some well-known oceanographer said that 70% of all stingray victims go unconscience eventually. :frowning:

I can’t imagine so. Ice is used to reduce inflamation, it won’t do anything for venom that has ben injected. In these cases pain and damage from the venom is the primary problem. Any swelling can be delat with later.

Heat would probably make the pain worse by increaisng inflamation, as well as flushing the area with blood which then gets carried back to the rest of the body.

As Tuckerfan has already noted, the idea is to denature the protein that the venom is made of. Hot water is a common tretament for venom from marine life because their proteins have evolved for stability and activity in conditions of low temperatures, AKA the ocean. If you can heat them even a little they start to cook, and once they cook they are much less dangerous.

The technique doesn’t work very well for land animals because their proteins evolved to operate at land temperatures and so are much more stable at high temperatures.

And a word of advice, if you are going to use hot water to treat venom: “as hot as people can stand” should be tested on the other limb and then applied ot the afflicted limb. Many types of venom interfere with the body’s ability to sense pain and people have suffered serious burns from these treatments. Test the water on the unaffected limb, if the victim can’t stand it there they cant’ safely have it applied to the injury

In a lifetime of living in Queensland, which as you would know has quite a number of venomous marine critters, and having read first aid instructions for this sort of thing over and over (including doing a course) I have never heard this obviously sensible and crucial advice before. Someone needs to re-write the manual…

Hot water.
“Treatment included hot water immersion, which was completely effective in 73% of cases, analgesia, wound exploration and prophylactic antibiotics. Stingray injuries should be explored and debrided with large wounds, while other stings only need appropriate cleaning. The routine use of antibiotics is not recommended”

another cite:
*Is hot water immersion an effective treatment for marine envenomation?
P R T Atkinson, A Boyle, D Hartin and D McAuley
Emergency Department, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK
Correspondence to:
P R T Atkinson
Emergency Department, Box 87, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, CB2 2QQ;
Envenomation by marine creatures is common. As more people dive and snorkel for leisure, the incidence of envenomation injuries presenting to emergency departments has increased. Although most serious envenomations occur in the temperate or tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region, North American and European waters also provide a habitat for many stinging creatures. Marine envenomations can be classified as either surface stings or puncture wounds. Antivenom is available for a limited number of specific marine creatures. Various other treatments such as vinegar, fig juice, boiled cactus, heated stones, hot urine, hot water, and ice have been proposed, although many have little scientific basis. The use of heat therapies, previously reserved for penetrating fish spine injuries, has been suggested as treatment for an increasing variety of marine envenomation. This paper reviews the evidence for the effectiveness of hot water immersion (HWI) and other heat therapies in the management of patients presenting with pain due to marine envenomation. *