Swimmers and surfers have been reminded by Irish Water Safety to beware of the venomous weever fish.
Irish Water Safety CEO John Leech is reminding swimmers, surfers and all beach users of the little sandy coloured fish that lives in the sea on our beaches.
Should a bather step on a weever fish then the pain is excruciating as the spines embed into the human flesh and discharge their poison.
According to John Leech, the Weever fish spends most of the time buried under the sand with just its venomous black dorsal fin showing above the sandy bottom. It grows to a maximum length of 15 centimetres.
They are found all round the Irish coast but only in sandy areas where the water is warm and shallow close to the mean low water tide line.
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.
You won't see a weever fish easily but you will know it's there if you are unfortunate enough to stand on one since its back has a defensive sting mechanism. The sting can be very painful but will not cause permanent damage.
According to John Leech, the poison is a type of protein and is heat labile. Most reports of stings occur during the month of August. This does not mean that this fish are particularly prevalent inshore during this month but merely reflects the greater numbers of bathers as the sea temperature reaches the highest of the year.
The mouth of the weever fish is in an unusual position on its head, oblique and almost vertical, and contains some of the most sharp and vicious looking teeth in the undersea world. Luckily it only reaches about 15 cm long.
One danger is that it can cause anaphylactic shock or allergic reaction and people have been known to die.
People who have been stung should take painkillers and if they develop an allergic reaction to the sting, a course of antihistamines is recommended Seek assistance from a lifeguard who are all qualified first aiders. Aspivenin syringes can painlessly draw out poison from the wound.
Irish Water Safety says if you are away from a beach with lifeguard support, as soon as possible get the area which has been stung, invariably the foot, into hot water, this increases the blood flow which assists natural cleaning and healing, the heat also helps to breakdown the poison.
The water needs to be over 40 degrees Celsius to be of any benefit in breaking down the poison.
"We advise the public to avoid swimming approximately one hour either side of low water to reduce the risk of stepping on them until the tides revert to neaps, John Leech said.
Irish Water Safety encourages everyone to take swimming, water safety or rescue classes, which are ongoing at present around the country. Further information is available here http://www.iws.ie/courses--jobs-page.html#Courses
For information on treatment of jellyfish stings click here
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