Stingray attacks are more likely to occur to divers who are entering or exiting the ocean through shallow water and accidentally step on a stingray. Naturally the stingray will react. When the stingray is stepped on, it quickly whips its long tail forward and down, which jabs the sting at the base of the tail into the offender. This is a defensive maneuver designed to remove the diver's foot from the stingray's body, and it works. To avoid stepping on top of a stingray, divers can shuffle their feet when entering or exiting the water. In addition, divers should be aware of stingray habitats such as long sandy shores. Because neither dive booties nor fins protect a diver from a stingray's hard, razor sharp sting, the diver should be vigilant if he suspects he might be in a stingray habitat.
In the unlikely event that a stingray injury occurs, there are two considerations in treating the wounded area: the sting and the venom it contains. A stingray's sting is covered with sharp, hooked barbs which are angled to enter a victim smoothly, but hook into the flesh if pulled out. While a diver's immediate reaction might be to pull out the sting, it may be better to allow a medical professional to remove it to avoid exacerbating the injury.
As the stinger enters the diver's body, a thin sheath containing the venom breaks allowing the poison to flow into the surrounding flesh. The venom contains enzymes which cause muscle contraction (pain) and that causes cell death. For this reason, it is important to neutralize the venom as quickly as possible. Immersing the area in hot water for at least 30 minutes can help, but it is still advisable to see a medical professional. Because the venom causes cell death, stings near vital organs in the chest and abdomen can be fatal, and these injuries should be taken seriously.