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Watch your step _ or else

To help readers safely cope with the elements, we offer the second in a series of summer survival guides.

The stingray shuffle. It's a routine familiar to those who travel to area beaches and don't want to be stung.

Stingrays, which swarm in large numbers, create a painful nuisance for swimmers.

"Historically, it's the season when stingrays will migrate" to warm water, said Dennis Kellenberger, executive director of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. "The public will eventually encounter them when they come to the beaches."

To keep from being stung, beware of stingrays resting beneath a thin layer of sand.

"You should never step straight down," Kellenberger said. "Instead, it's a good idea to kick or shuffle your feet when you're stepping down, to stir the bottom up."

If you're stung, see a doctor, Kellenberger suggests.

"You might have pain and effect of the toxins," he said. "But the infection from the water could be just as bad. Make sure a doctor checks it out."

Shuffle, shuffle

Stingrays migrate annually in large numbers to warm shallow water where they give birth to their young and then gather food. This can create problems for people in an area such as Tampa Bay.

1. The stingray covers itself with a thin layer of sand. People wading in shallow water are more likely to step on one.

2. As the stingray struggles to free itself, its tail whips swiftly to deter the aggressor.

3. The tail may strike the foot or ankle several times, causing a sharp stab of pain.

Precautions

Don't stomp or slosh through the water - shuffle your feet and the stingrays will dart away.

What to do if you are stung

Wash the wound with saltwater.

Soak the wound in hot water for 30 to 60 minutes.

In some cases infection can occur. Symptoms include redness, puffiness, tenderness or an increase in pain and warmth aroudn the infected area. If any of these symptoms persist 24 hours after the sting, see a physician.

Cross section of a stinger

The spine, a bonelike spear measuring 1 to 7 inches long, is about a third of the way back on the tail and makes stingrays dangerous. The shape is slightly oval with a sharp point. The saw-edged sides with inverted barbs make removal difficult.

Sources: Dangerous Sea Creatures, National Geograpic, Clearwater Marine Science

Up next:BIRTHS

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