Is it red tide … or something else?

August 27, 2021
By Staff Report

Submitted by the Boca Grande Health Clinic

Like allergies or the flu, red tide ebbs and flows with the season. And when it’s present along the coast and blown onshore, it can cause a variety of cold or flu-like symptoms in many – especially those with any kind of breathing condition. This includes people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions such as COPD, emphysema or asthma.

“Red tide is a particulate allergen containing brevetoxins that can cause mild burning in your nose and throat, watery eyes, and trigger histamine release and bronchospasms causing wheezing and shortness of breath in COPD and asthma patients,” said Raymond James, D.O. at the Boca Grande Health Clinic.

The good news is that these symptoms are usually temporary and go away shortly or within hours after you leave the red tide area.

Red tide symptoms are similar to those from allergies, the flu, or even COVID-19, which creates questions and concerns.

Tips for managing your health during red tide:

1.Check the marine forecast before you head out

2. Wear a particle filter mask

3. Over-the-counter antihistamines may decrease your symptoms

4. Seek medical help if your symptoms worsen

5. Temporarily move your activities further inland

Answers to frequently asked health questions related to red tide:

Is it okay to eat seafood during a red tide?

It depends. Seafood from restaurants and hotels is monitored and is safe to eat. Avoid eating clams and oysters harvested recreationally from red tide waters.

Is it safe to swim in red tide waters?

People can swim in red tide, but most prefer not to. Red tide can cause skin irritation and burning eyes. If your skin is easily irritated, it’s best to avoid red tide water. Swimming near dead fish is not recommended.

Where can I find more information about red tide?

The Mote Marine Laboratory publishes updated information on beach conditions, including red tide, twice daily. Visit Florida Health Department provides Top 10 Red Tide Facts. Visit