How to treat a stingray sting

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A stingray is flat-bodied cartilaginous fish with one or more barbed stingers found midway on the tail. They live in coastal tropical and subtropical marine waters which makes it easy for them to encounter humans. They are not aggressive, but will use their stingers in self-defense when they are accidentally stepped on and secrete venom into the sting site.

Symptoms of a stingray sting

  • Muscle cramps and seizures
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Headache
  • Bleeding
  • Weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Palpitations
  • Allergic reactions such as swelling of the tongue, lips, neck and other areas of the body, shortness of breath or wheezing and red and itchy rash.
  • Elevated heart rate, low blood pressure and rapid breathing


  • While still in the water, irrigate the wound using sea water and remove all debris and foreign bodies from the area. Use a tweezer if needed. Once the area is already irrigated, move out of the water and dry the area using a towel. Avoid removing any remaining debris found in the neck, chest and abdomen.
  • If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure on the affected area for a few minutes until the bleeding is reduced.
  • Soak the wound in hot water as tolerated for at least 30-90 minutes or until the pain has subsided. Soaking in hot water lessens the pain by eliminating the venom protein complex.
  • Elevate the affected body part for a few days to lessen the swelling.
  • Take the prescribed over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen to lessen the pain and the swelling. If there is profuse bleeding, take acetaminophen to thin out the blood and lessen the clotting ability of the body.
  • Maintain cleanliness of the affected area and keep dry all the time. Apply the prescribed antibiotic every day and keep the area uncovered.


  • When swimming in tropical waters, be cautious with sharks, stingrays and other dangerous sea animals that might be around.
  • Drag or shuffle the feet when walking in water, so that you can only bump on the stingray instead of stepping on them.
  • When the affected area becomes itchy, avoid scratching or rubbing the area to prevent the condition from getting worse.
  • Hot sand can be used as a medium in soaking the wound. Clean the wound properly after the soak.

More Information

The details posted on this page on a stingray sting is for learning purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage marine animal stings, enroll in a first aid course with one of our training providers.

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