I just want to share an experience I had on Caye Caulker while I was there over the holidays. I hope that people who are traveling to the Caye will keep this in mind and be careful and prepared..
On Chrismas Day, 2003, I had the unfortunate experience to step on a stingray and be ‘stung’ in the ankle/foot area. When stepped on, the tail of the stingray (which is equipped with a barb (or barbs) and venom will snap up and puncture you. Any of you who have been to Caye Caulker know these stingrays - they are all over the place. Their bodies are about the size of a salad or dinner plate, and their coloring is mottled. They are very beautiful creatures, actually. You can usually see quite a few of them on the dock over by the Split. Anyway, apparently one of the most common mistakes that people make when wading in shallow water where rays live is in the way they walk. You are supposed to 'shuffle' slowly. That way, if there are rays burrowed invisibly under the sand, your 'shuffle' should scare the rays away before you have the misfortune to step on them.
You can look on the Internet for anecdotes about how horrible it is to be stung by one of these things. Suffice it to say that the pain was unimaginable, and in addition to the pain, I experienced a sort of hyperventilation, increased heart rate, nausea, and just plain panic. I sincerely hope that none of the readers have this experience.
However, if you do, I'd like to share with you what I have learned since this happened to me. First, despite the friendliness of the policemen and others who helped me out after this happened, they had no clue about how to treat it properly. They suggested meat tenderizer, urine, and the common things recommended for jellyfish stings. This is NOT what you are supposed to do for stingray injuries. I have since learned that you should get the injury clean as soon as possible, then immerse it in the hottest water that you can stand. Since I didn't know this, I suffered through that unbearable pain for hours. Apparently the hot water treatment denatures the protein in the venom, and if you keep your foot (or whatever body part has been stung) in the hot water, the pain will go away within 60-90 minutes. (You need to keep freshening up the hot water to keep it hot). Today it has been two weeks since my injury, and I am still having pain. In contrast, I have heard that this hot water treatment can make the person virtually pain free after an hour or two. I have also heard that adding a little bit of bleach to the water can help, but I have only heard this (and not read it anywhere).
Also, most of the websites I've checked out recommend that you get to a doctor. For one, you may have pieces of the barb or venom sack still in you (and you may need them removed and start a course of antibiotics). Also, you may need help for pain control. You also need to make sure you have an updated tetanus shot. Finally, there are reports of fatal stingray injuries due to allergic reactions or punctures to the chest. So, I think that you should take this a lot more seriously than I did and get yourself off the Caye and back into the city to a proper doctor.
So my point here is this: Caye Caulker authorities and locals are unprepared for what happened to me. Not only was the nurse's clinic not open that day, but people who really should have known better gave me well-intentioned, but incorrect advice. Due to the abundance of these rays around the Caye, pepole really need to know about this.
I had a great time on Caye Caulker despite this experience, but I do not want this to happen to anyone else. I don’t need or expect any replies to this posting, I would just appreciate if the information would get into the correct hands so that more people are informed about what to do. Ideally, everyone would shuffle when wading and this will never come up, but stingray injuries are inevitable and we need to be prepared.