St Andrews residents and visitors are being urged to be cautious when walking in the water on West Sands, after a young woman was stung by a venomous weever fish.
The poisonous fish is found in coastal waters around the UK, sometimes lying in the sand above the water line, hidden on the beach while it’s venomous spines stick upward.
And while the small 10cm fish may look harmless, touching it can have very serious and painful consequences.
Jess Blanche travelled from Perth to St Andrews with her family last month, looking forward to taking her surfboard out at West Sands. But as she walked out to the edge of the water, she was suddenly stung.
“She felt a sharp, agonising pain,” explained her mother, Kate. “She has had jellyfish stings before, but this was more like a puncture. We didn’t know what it was. Her foot started swelling up and she was in agony.”
Kate started trying to find the wound and looked online for what could have caused the pain. It was only when she found an article on fifetoday.co.uk that she realised her daughter had been stung by a weever fish.
Not knowing what to do to treat the wound, Kate took Jess back to Perth, before cleaning it with hot salt water.
“It seemed OK, but she started to feel ill and feverish,” Kate added. “We took her to A&E. The said we should have taken her earlier. She was put on antibiotics but was ill all week. She’s still not alright and is really weak.”
Kate said the situation could have been worse, as her son, who has ME, was also on the beach and could have been stung.
She is now spreading the word about weever fish, to let other people know about the dangers of the small fish.
“Everyone we have spoke to doesn’t seem to know what a weever fish is,” Kate said.
“I was concerned because I thought there must be lots of people like us. I bet most people are absolutely unaware.”
Fife Coast and Countryside Trust says low tides and an increase in the number of people going in the water leads to more complaints about stings at this time of the year.
Ranald Strachan, ranger for Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, explained: “Weever fish are natural. They are not either common or rare on the Fife coast.
“They bury themselves in the sand where people go paddling, and it doesn’t like being stood on.
“We’ve not got a sudden plume of weever fish, but it will probably happen again because of the hot weather.”
Ranald said the best protection against being stung by a weever fish is to wear some sort of footwear.
If you are stung by a weever fish, you are advised to get out of the water, sit on the beach and rest to see how it goes. If there is a reaction, phone 999. Also contact Fife Coast and Countryside Trust to let them know where the incident occurred.