Venomous fish alert as little Maisie (4) left screaming in pain on Northern Ireland beach
A mother has issued a warning to beach-goers after her four-year-old daughter was left crying in agony after being stung by a fish that hides in the sand.
Fiona Lagan (36), from Dungiven, was with her family at Benone beach on Saturday enjoying a day out.
Her daughter, Maisie, was playing in the water along with big brother Jarlath (5).
But as the pair started to make their way back towards the car, Maisie started to scream and cry out in pain.
Her parents initially thought she had cut her foot on glass, but the little girl had no marks or blood on her feet.
They took her to the lifeguard, who instantly recognised that Maisie had been stung by a weever fish.
The weever fish has venomous spines along its dorsal fin.
It remains buried under the sand with only the fin poking out - awaiting unsuspecting beach-goers. While it is small, its sting causes excruciating pain and swelling.
Mum Fiona told the Belfast Telegraph: "Maisie was walking up to the car and said to her dad 'ow ow' and held her foot. She couldn't put any weight on it and started crying. By the time we got to the car, she was going berserk and in a lot of pain."
As her daughter's condition worsened, Fiona decided to take her to the lifeguard station.
"She was really squealing and distressed that it was so sore," she said. "I went to the lifeguard station and as soon as I said to them 'She is squealing with something wrong with her foot', they said 'it's a weever fish'.
"I had never heard of it before and I didn't know anything about it.
"They took her in, treated her and put her foot into really hot water - the hot water dilutes the toxins.
"The fish like warm, shallow water, and with the warm spell and the water getting warmer, they were there."
From now on, Fiona will be making sure her children wear shoes or sandals when they paddle in the water.
She posted her experience on Facebook, and it has been shared more than 6,000 times.
The mum hopes by sharing the post, people bitten in future will know what to do.
Thankfully, brave little Maisie's pain subsided later that night, and all that was left was a tiny hole.
Not put off by her experience, the plucky youngster told her grandfather: "The fish was playing hide and seek with me."
"If people knew it was a weever fish (sting), they would know to go straight up to the lifeguard," Fiona said.
"I don't want to scare people going to the beach. They have always been there, it's just now we are going to see more and more as the years go on."
What to do if you are stung?
To control the pain, the affected area should be immersed in hot water (as hot as can be tolerated) for 30-90 minutes. However, be careful not to burn your skin. This can be repeated if necessary.
You can use simple painkillers such as paracetamol to relieve any remaining pain.
Any large spines should be carefully removed from the wound using tweezers (avoid touching the spines with your bare hands). Clean the wound using soap and water, and then rinse it with fresh water. Don't cover the wound.
Spines embedded in or near joints or tendons should be assessed in A&E. X-rays may be required and the spines may need to be surgically removed.
A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) needs to be treated in hospital immediately.
Anti-tetanus prophylaxis (an injection) may be needed if you or the affected person isn't fully vaccinated.