If you’re lucky enough to not know what a weever fish is, then it probably means you’ve also had the good fortune to not get stung by one whilst swimming at one of the Island’s many beaches – but just in case you ever do, here’s a handy guide on how to stop the sting!
So firstly, what are weever fish? Weever fish are colourful small creatures who enjoy spending their days in the warm water found in the shallow areas just below the low tide mark. They nestle and hide themselves into the sand to hide from any potential predators and to give them an advantage when finding food. They can be found on many of the Island’s beaches.
Unfortunately for us though, hiding in the sand isn’t the only defence mechanism weevers use to protect themselves. Weever fish have a line of spines along their backs which when stood on by an unsuspecting human frolicking in the waves can inject a nasty – and extremely painful – sting into the soft skin on our feet. The sting can be so painful that it can make even the toughest nut crack.
Their sting can cause excruciating and radiating pain, along with nausea and headaches, itching, and swelling. Weever stings are some of the most common incidents that lifeguards and first aiders on beaches have to deal with.
How to avoid getting stung:
After reading the above – or perhaps experiencing it for yourself – you may be wondering how best to avoid getting stung. Whilst there is no particular science to becoming a weever victim, stings only usually happen when a weever is trodden on directly.
Some weever experts recommend shuffling through the water to avoid accidentally putting your foot down on to one of the feisty fish. Sea shoes are also available such as wetsuit shoes/boots, crocs, and jelly shoes which can all protect the soles of feet and avoid any penetration from the spines of a weever.
How to treat a weever sting:
Getting stung by a weever can be one of the most painful experiences (yes, even more so than having your chips stolen by a seagull). It’s important that you begin treating the sting as soon as possible to help stop the pain quickly.
The NHS recommends that you ask a lifeguard or a first aider for help in the first instance, but should no-one be available, you should do the following:
- Rinse the affected area with sea water (not fresh water)
- Remove any spines from the skin using tweezers – or if you don’t have any with you, the edge of a bank card
- Soak the area in the warmest water you can tolerate for at least 30 minutes, or use hot flannels or towels if you cannot soak it
- Take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
You should avoid:
- Using vinegar on the wound
- weeing on the sting (yes, people have done this…)
- applying ice or cold packs
- touching spines with bare hands
- covering or closing the wound
If you experience any of the following, you should 999 or go to the Emergency Department at St Mary’s Hospital.
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Fits or seizures
- Severe swelling around the affected area
- Severe bleeding
- Light headedness or loss of consciousness