Coastguards have issued a warning to beachgoers amid multiple reports of people being stung by a tiny fish in north Wales. On Black Rock Sands in Gwynedd, 11 people are reported to have been stung by weever fish, whose spines can cause excruciating pain said to be "worse than childbirth".Stings have also been reported by beachgoers at Abersoch, Llanbedrog and Tywyn.Moelfre Coastguard on Anglesey said the reports were “nothing to be alarmed about” but advised beach visitors to wear some type of footwear.
What are weever fish?
Weever fish are tiny – about 8cm long – but they can deliver excruciating pain.
During the winter months, the normally shy creatures are 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.
One holidaymaker said her daughter was given first aid on Tywyn beach last week after she twice trod on a weever fish.
Writing on Facebook, she said: “Her screaming was unbearable and the beach wardens said grown men scream exactly like that! Literally watched loads of poison bubbles popping up all around the two areas stung.“It also paralysed her big toe! Had to rush her down to get first aid, which was to immerse her foot in boiling/as close to boiling water as she could take for half an hour to draw the venom out.”
A woman who was stung near Abergele, Conwy, a few years ago said it was the worst pain she’d ever experienced. “My foot went twice its size,” she added.
Despite the recent wave of reports, weever fish stings are relatively rare. A boy stung on a beach at Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, this week was said to be the first victim there this year.His mum said: “It did hurt him (but) he was super brave. The lifeguards said they’ve seen adults reduced to tears because the pain is so bad. It looked like he’d just stood on glass and had a prick mark, it’s only when his foot started swelling that I knew it was something else.”
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.