If you haven’t heard of Weever Fish, they are a stinging and potentially dangerous fish that appear near beaches during summer time. Don’t be fooled by how small they appear – learn how you can avoid Weever Fish at the beach!
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These seemingly innocent little fish are far from it! Unfortunately the sting from the Weever Fish can sometimes cause anaphylactic shock and there have been a number of people hospitalised as a result.
At a time of year when many of us are visiting the beach more for family day trips, warnings about Weever Fish, Lion’s Mane jellyfish and other creatures that can spoil the fun are important to be aware of.
The striking thing about Weever Fish is that they are found in the areas most likely to be enjoyed by young children.
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What is a Weever Fish?
Weever Fish are commonly found in Irish and UK waters. but only in sandy areas, usually in warm shallow waters in the hour before and after low tide.
They are difficult to see because they spend most of their time buried under the sand and are camouflaged. They have sharp spines containing venom on their dorsal fin. The sandy coloured fish can grow to 15cm in length.
Although difficult to spot, the poisonous spine protrudes up through the sand and can break off into a person’s foot when stepped on.
Standing on a Weever Fish results in immediate intense, burning pain. The pain is most intense in the first 2 hours and can result in swelling, numbness and warmth.
Avoiding Weever Fish at the Beach
Always heed the warnings from lifeguards on duty. If possible, it’s best to swim at lifeguarded waterways (a list of which is available at Water Safety Ireland), because lifeguards ensure your safety on the beach and, when on duty, will be patrolling on their surf rescue boards to ensure that there are no threats to members of the public.
If you do intend on using non-lifeguarded beaches then it’s recommended that you:
- Wear flip-flops or beach shoes when approaching an area of low tide
- Don’t walk gently along the beach, but instead make plenty of commotion by stomping your feet on the sand and kick up the sand a little, this alerts the Weever Fish to your presence and they normally swim out to deeper water away from you.
- Avoid swimming approximately one hour either side of low water to reduce the risk of stepping on them until the tides revert.
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How to Treat a Weever Fish Sting
Standing on a Weever Fish will result in immediate intense, burning pain. The pain is most intense in the first 2 hours and can result in swelling, numbness and warmth.
To treat the sting:
- Submerge the affected limb or wound in hot water (over 40 degrees Celsius ideally), as hot as can be tolerated, for up to 90 minutes or until pain is easing. The heat helps to break the poison down.
- As the sting can result in numbness, immerse the unaffected limb too, as this may prevent inadvertent scalding.
- Cold applications may worsen the discomfort.
- Paracetamol can be considered to relieve pain. If you develop an allergic reaction to the sting, a course of antihistamines is recommended. Seek assistance from a lifeguard who are all qualified first aiders, and medical attention from a doctor, if necessary.
- The puncture site should be examined and embedded spines removed.
- Tetanus and/or antibiotics may be required.
- Call the National Poisons Line in Dublin on 01 8092166 if you have been stung by a Weever Fish.
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