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Stingrays injure hundreds at Southern California beaches over weekend, officials say

Beachgoers were out in full force in Southern California over Labor Day weekend — but so were stingrays, according to state parks officials.

Along the Orange County coast, more than 500 people were stung over the three-day period by the sea creatures, which enjoy swimming in the shallows near shore where crowds are likely to congregate, according to the Orange County Register.

State Parks Lifeguard Chief Jeff David said that Bolsa Chica State Beach had the most injuries with 124 stings Saturday, 64 on Sunday and 42 on Monday, while roughly 20 swimmers were hurt each day at Huntington State Beach, according to the Register.

A state parks spokesperson said that last year only 84 stings were reported over Labor Day weekend at Bolsa Chica — or roughly a third of this year’s total, KABC reported.

“The warm water brings stingrays in, but ultimately the more people you have, the more possibility and more actual stings that you will have,” California State Parks lifeguard Josh Raymond told KABC, adding that “they’re not swimming around looking to sting people, per se. It’s just where they live and that’s where they are and if you step on one, they’re gonna kind of lash back and say, ‘Hey get out of here.’”

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What happens to a person who has a stingray run-in?

“When stung by a stingray, you’ll feel immediate, severe pain at the wound site,” Ana Gotter writes for Healthline. “You need to begin treating the wound right away if it’s superficial.”

WebMD advises people stung to wash out the wound while still in the water “to remove fragments of spine and tissue,” then to get the victim out of the water and “gently manually remove obvious pieces of spine. Do not remove pieces of spine from the neck, chest, or abdomen.”

According to Surfer Today, “ideally, you should immediately see a doctor for medical care as soon as possible.”

But don’t take a sting personally.

Surfer Today reports that “stingrays never attack; they just protect themselves from disturbing external forces, i.e., when provoked or stepped on. The bad news is that stingray stings are extremely painful. In most times, the pain peaks in between one and two hours, and could eventually last for two days if not treated quickly and appropriately.”

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Kevin Pearsall, California State Parks’ Orange County superintendent, recommends “the stingray shuffle” to avoid stings, according to ABC.

“It’s shuffling your feet when you go out there. If you shuffle and let them know you’re there, they will scatter away,” Pearsall said, per ABC.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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