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Doctors see an influx of patients with red tide irritant symptoms

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Posted at 4:27 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 17:21:52-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Doctors at local urgent care centers in Pinellas County are seeing more patients come in with red tide symptoms like itchy eyes, coughing and scratchy throats.

Dr. Nathan Waldrep, the Chief Medical Officer of Baycare’s Urgent Care Division, says they’ve seen an uptick in patients with red tide impacts, particularly in their clinics in Largo, St. Pete Beach and New Port Richey, which are closer to the coast.

It didn’t take long for beachgoers to notice the impacts Thursday in Pinellas County.

“We noticed a lot of coughing and it just sort of feels like dust in the throat. We’re from Denver and it’s allergy season and it feels really similar to that,” said Jen Jackson who was visiting Indian Shores with her family.

Brandon Tenney, who is visiting from Maryland, felt the impacts too.

“We came on the beach, and we started experiencing a little bit of tickle in our throat, we started coughing a few times,” he added.

Doctors say the best way to tell the difference between red tide and other viruses, like COVID or allergies, is that red tide won’t cause a fever, chills or body aches.

“The I just want to bundle up in bed and call my mom you’re not going to get that with the red tide,” Waldrep said.

Unlike COVID and allergies, red tide impacts should only last for at most an hour or two after you leave the beach.

“I like to use the analogy of slicing onions. You slice an onion, and you get teary, weepy and itchy but it’s not there five hours later unless you’re still slicing onions. Once you remove yourself from that irritant, the symptoms tend to dissipate,” Waldrep elaborated.

Red tide doesn’t seem to cause any known long-term effects, Waldrep added.

Doctors say your best defense against red tide, allergies and COVID is all the same: wearing a mask. Going inside for an AC break can also help in dealing with red tide irritation.