Monday 20 May 2019

'The pain is quite excruciating' - Warning as potentially deadly fish stings people at popular swimming spot

Brittas Bay
Brittas Bay
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

A potentially killer fish with an "excruciating sting" has been spotted at a popular swimming spot, experts have warned.

As people flock to beaches to make the most of the warm weather, locals have said that weever fish have stung members of the public in recent days at Brittas Bay in Co Wicklow.

Irish Water Safety has advised that anyone heading to the beach needs to be wary of the weever fish and said they are most commonly found at low tide.

IWS said in a statement on their website: "We advise the public to avoid swimming approximately one to two hours either side of low water to reduce the risk of stepping on them until the tides reverts back towards neaps later the following week.

"The public should wear flip flops or sandals when walking on the beach close to Low Water.

"When entering the water, make plenty of noise with you feet and kick up the sand a little, this alerts the weever fish to your presence and they normally swim out in to deeper water away from you."

They said that weever fish are sandy colour and can grow to a maximum length of 15cm.

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Toxic weever fish have been stinging people this week
Toxic weever fish have been stinging people this week

Although people may not see weever fish, IWS said you will definitely know if you are stung by one.

They said: "Should a bather step on a weever fish then the pain is quite excruciating as the spines embed into the flesh and discharge their poison.

"The pain is at its most intense for the first two hours when the foot normally goes red and swells up, and then it may feel numb until the following day with irritation and pain that may last for up to two weeks.

"Sometimes, the spine breaks off in the foot and it will cause discomfort until it is removed... The sting can be very painful but will not cause permanent damage.

"One danger is that it can cause anaphylactic shock or allergic reaction to those who are vulnerable and people have been known to die from their stings."

If you suffer an allergic reaction to a sting, a course of antihistamines is recommended, IWS also recommends you seek help from a lifeguard.

If you aren't near lifeguard support and have been stung you are advised to put the foot in water that's at least 40C, which will increase blood flow and help with the natural cleaning and healing, as well as breaking down the poison.

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Paul Leahy lives near Brittas Bay and he said that he heard of several people being stung by weever fish there this week.

He told "I heard about five people being stung at Brittas Bay by weever fish on Monday, one of them had to get help from the lifeguard.

"A five-year-old girl was also stung today but luckily her parents knew to put hot water on the sting.

"They are a sub-tropical fish and they used to be very rare in Ireland but because of global warming they are moving further up north."

Paul added that he has unfortunately been stung by one of these toxic fish before.

He said: "I was fishing a few years ago and I caught a weever, it was tiny and I didn't realise what it was so as i tried to un-hook it I got stung.

"There was an intense pain in my fingers and then my arm just went number.

"I remember screaming in pain."

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