Sea safety experts are urging people to be cautious when visiting the beach as warmer coastal waters sees the return of the UK's most toxic fish to the shoreline.
Over the years, a number of people have been stung on the Welsh coast by the poisonous weever fish. The normally shy creatures are tiny – about 8cm long – but they can deliver excruciating pain.
During the winter months, weever fish are usually found in deeper waters but during the summer months they come inshore and can be found in very shallow water or buried in sand, leaving poisonous dorsal spines sticking out.
'As bad as childbirth'
Weever fish have been described as the “bane of barefoot surfers” and pose a threat to dogs too. “If you step on one, you’ll know about it!" said Wild Swim Wales in a recent Facebook post.
"It’s said to be as bad as childbirth!” the post continued.
RNLI Lifeguards in Wales said that, if stood on, they can cause a lot of pain – though not for everyone.
“I have seen grown men cry and children hardly affected,” said a representative on Facebook. “It really depends on the size of the fish, how you step on it and how your body reacts to the venom.”
Despite the pain the tiny fish can cause, a sting is not normally serious, unless the victim has underlying conditions. In 2016, a 64-year old fisherman from Wrexham suffered a severe reaction and was airlifted to hospital after being stung at Trefor, Gwynedd.
The west Wales coast can be a hotspot for the sand-coloured fish. Three years ago several people were stung on Criccieth beach and another at Harlech.
Besides wearing something on your feet, Wild Swim Wales suggests another solution – though you may draw a few strange looks while doing it. “Do the “Weever Fish Shuffle” – lots of tiny stamping feet kind of steps to send vibrations to make them move out of your way!” it said.
What to do if you get stung by a weever fish
If you get stung, and you’re on a lifeguarded beach, seek their help. RNLI Lifeguards suggest victims immerse their foot in water as hot as they can handle for at least 30 minutes to draw out the poison. “It needs to be hot hot,” they said.
“If the spine is stuck in your foot, it is also advised that you pull it out with tweezers or the edge of a bank card. But do not touch the spine with bare hands.”
For the pain, take paracetamol, along with antihistamine if you react. If the reaction looks serious, contact your GP or visit the hospital. Worst-case symptoms include severe swelling and bleeding, chest pain and difficulty breathing.
Wild Swim Wales has also issued its annual warning for jellyfish. Most UK jellyfish only sting like a nettle but some people can have an allergic reaction. It’s another reason not to go barefooted, though the risk is relatively small.
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