With the Atlantic Coast experiencing shark, alligator and jellyfish sightings, stingrays are now making an appearance in Myrtle Beach waters, resulting in the city’s fourth sting this month Thursday morning.
Myrtle Beach Fire Department arrived at the beach access for 24th Avenue North around 11:30 a.m. Thursday to treat a beachgoer who encountered a stingray while spending time at Myrtle Beach. A lifeguard on the scene said the victim was stung in the leg while swashing in shallow waters.
While the stung beach-goer might not have expected to spend her day in pain, experts say spotting stingrays in the ocean is much higher in the spring and summer seasons when swimming activities increase.
“Stingray stings are fairly common across the coast during swimming season, and while they can be extremely painful, with proper treatment they do not typically cause long-term complications,” S.C. Department of Natural Resources media coordinator Erin Weeks told The Sun News.
Brian Mitchell with MBFD said the department has used four stingray kits since the end of May to treat symptoms or wounds similar to a stingray envenomation. The kits allow officials to remotely heat water in order to immerse the affected area in hot water, which provides significant and rapid pain relief, he said.
According to representatives with SCDNR, the state is home to a number of stingray species; some with stingers, or barbs, and some without. However, Atlantic and southern stingrays are two of the most common barbed species found in coastal South Carolina waters.
While the Atlantic stingray has a long venomous spine, and the southern has a sharp, serrated barb that can lead to severe pain if stepped on, both aren’t perceived to be dangerous or aggressive.
“Stingrays are not aggressive animals — people are most often stung when they step directly on a stingray by accident,” Weeks said.
Earlier this month, The Island Packet in Hilton Head reported an 18-year-old from Bluffton experienced near fatal injuries when a stingray hit him in the face and knocked him unconscious while riding his jet ski in Hilton Head Island’s Skull Creek.
SCDNR spokesman David Lucas told The Island Packet that one of the responding officers said he hadn’t seen an accident like that in his 13 years of water patrols. Lucas told The Island Packet it’s odd for a stingray to jump out of the water at the exact time to impact a boater, despite being known to frequently jump out of the water during the spring and summer.
Fortunately, swimmers can easily avoid being stung or stepping on a stingray by doing what’s called the stingray shuffle, Weeks said. Swimmers are advised to move their feet slow and low along the ocean floor instead of stepping straight up and down.
“Stingrays sensing the movement nearby will typically swim away,” Weeks said.
Despite an encounter with a stingray being purely accidental, those who are stung should immediately seek medical treatment to ensure the barb is safely removed or apply very hot water to the wound to ease the pain while awaiting medical care.