Swimmers, surfers and all beach users need to be vigilant of the little sandy coloured fish that lives in the sea on our beaches. It spends most of the time buried under the sand with just its venomous black dorsal fins showing above the sandy bottom. It grows to a maximum length of 15 cm. They are found all round the Irish coast but mainly in sandy areas where the water is shallow. The public are most at risk close to the mean low water spring tides. This occurs when you have a new moon or a full moon. This causes swimmers, walkers and surfers to venture further out on the beach in to the area where the weever fish live.
We advise the public to avoid swimming approximately one to two hours either side of low water to reduce the risk of stepping on weever fish 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.
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. 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.
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.
People who have been stung could 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.
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 break down the poison. The water needs to be over 40° Celsius to be of any benefit in breaking down the poison.