Baja has a vast compilation of sea life and it's important to stay safe and mindful of possible situations. After living in Baja for 8 months, I can unfortunately say that I've personally stepped on all of the creatures mentioned below. For your protection, we recommend that before coming to Baja, your kids use water shoes, surf booties, rashguard (girls) (boys), and/or a wetsuit.
Sea Urchins: Sea urchins are like the porcupines of the sea. They are dark purple and have long spines that can easily prick you. They are easily breakable but can be a pain in the you know what to get out. The spines sometimes break under your skin and it can be a meticulous process to get them out safely. It is important to make sure there are no pieces left in the site, as it may lead to infection.
What to do if you step on or get pricked by one? Use alcohol to clean the area. Pull the urchin out with a pair of tweezers. Use a needle to scrape around the edges of the urchin and squeeze the little piece out. If you can't squeeze it out, keep picking around the piece and leave it in overnight. It should gradually fall out and if it doesn't after a couple of days, get a sea urchin sting kit to get it out.
Aftermath: After getting the sea urchin spine out, there may be a little swelling but the pain should be minimal and will reduce after a day or two.
Sting Rays: Sting rays are cartilaginous fish which means they are related to the shark family. They are typically found in shallow coastal waters and their average lifespan is about 15 to 25 years. Most of their time is spent inactive, along the bottom of the sand, camouflaged from harmful predators. Sting rays are not aggressive towards humans, if a person gets stung by one it is because they were unaware the stingray was there and it was protecting itself from a foreign creature stepping on it.
What to do if you get stung? Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY if the barb has punctured your throat, neck, abdomen, chest, or has pierced completely through any part of your body. Otherwise, stay in the water as long as possible (until your boiling water is ready) and try to push out all debris and get the barb out if you can. Place the wound in boiling hot water and reheat it every 10 minutes to keep it boiling hot. Once the pain is gone, apply antibiotic ointment cream and wrap it in a bandage.
Aftermath: Depending on the location and size of the wound, the recovery time varies. Some can be healed within a few hours and some require surgery that is a much longer recovery time. Expect swelling, numbness and tingling at the wound site.
Blue Bottle Jellyfish: The blue bottle jellyfish, also known as the Pacific “Man-of-War'', is most commonly found in the summer months off the coast of Australia. Whenever there are northeast winds, blue bottle jellies will be found on shores from Baja to Australia. What's interesting about the blue bottle is that it is not just a single animal. Rather, it is a colony of four kinds of highly modified individuals called zooids. Each zooid has its job and plays a key role in the blue bottles survival.
What to do if you get stung? Step one is to try to stay as calm as possible. If possible, ask someone to stay with you and help treat the injury. To stop the spreading, it's best to stay as still as possible and find a safe place to sit down. It's important to not itch or rub the infected area, as that will cause more irritation. Immerse the wound in scorching hot water, as hot as you can possibly stand, for 20 minutes. Your skin can tolerate the temperature of the water to be at about 107°F and the heat will reduce the pain of the venom immensely. If boiling water is not available, use a cold pack to help reduce the pain. We also recommend taking an anti-inflammatory (Advil or Aleve) immediately after getting stung, to reduce the pain and future swelling.
Aftermath: The pain decreases or stops after 1-2 hours. You may have a sore from the sting that will go away after a few days. Your joints may have a dull, achy feeling for the next couple of days. Wound site might be itchy or tender, try not to touch/itch the wound.
Sculpin(Scorpionfish): Now the scorpionfish, or more commonly known and beloved by craft beer enthusiasts as the "sculpin", is no joke. The sculpin fish carries an extremely poisonous venom in its four sharp spines along its back. They are extremely painful and not something you ever want to come into contact with. It is said that the pain is equivalent to getting bit by a rattlesnake and can cause long term tissue damage to some.
What to do if you get pricked? Try to remain in the water as long as possible until your boiling water is ready. The second that the air hits the wound, the pain begins to magnify and spread. Soak the infected area in BOILING HOT water. No matter how painful the water is, the venom is much, much worse. Immerse the wound for 30-90 minutes in water as hot as the poisoned person can tolerate. Repeat as necessary to control pain. Use tweezers to remove any spines in the wound. Scrub the wound with soap and water. You can even hold bleach on the wound to suck the venom out. When the pain has subsided, do not apply tape to close the wound, let it breathe and keep it elevated.
Aftermath: The pain and swelling varies and can last for weeks or even months after the prick. Some people have long term numbness and stiffness. It's important to stay hydrated and drink LOTS of water to try to flush the poison out of the body.