HOLMES BEACH – What a difference a few days and some strong winds can make.
While red tide reports from several days earlier showed low concentrations of Karenia brevis, the organism that causes red tide blooms, conditions changed on Sunday.
With winds out of the west at more than 23 mph churning up the blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and pushing them toward Anna Maria Island beaches, the unmistakable smell – and feel – of red tide permeated a largely empty Manatee Beach.
One visitor from New York was coughing profusely as she left the beach Sunday morning.
“I wanted to see the beach, but I have asthma and I couldn’t stay long,” she said. “I started coughing almost immediately. This is too much for me.”
Some people experience respiratory irritation (coughing, sneezing, tearing and an itchy throat) when red tide is present and winds blow onshore, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), while offshore winds can keep respiratory effects experienced by those on the shore to a minimum.
Red tide produces toxins capable of killing fish, birds and other marine animals. The toxins can also cause health problems in humans, including respiratory irritation when wave action breaks open red tide cells and the toxins become airborne, according to the FWC.
The Florida Department of Health advises people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as COPD, emphysema or asthma, to avoid areas with red tide.