Red Tide 101: What it is and its Impact on your Health

There has been a lot of publicity surrounding Florida’s red tides recently, but you may not be aware that this phenomenon has been documented along the state’s Gulf Coast since the 1840’s.

The moniker ‘red tide’ describes the ocean’s red bloom, which is caused by a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic algae, or plant-like organisms. The Florida red tide organism, called Karenia brevis, produces a toxin that may kill marine animals and negatively affect humans.

When is Florida’s red tide most prevalent? Karenia brevis blooms occur in the Gulf of Mexico almost every year, generally in late summer or early fall. Although these are most common off of the state’s central and southwestern coasts between

How safe is it to swim in red tide?

The answer is that swimming in a red tide is safe for most people. However, the Florida red tide can cause some swimmers to suffer skin irritation and burning eyes. It’s possible to also experience respiratory irritation, such as coughing, sneezing and tearing when the red tide organism is present along a coast and winds blow its aerosol onshore. It’s also recommended that you avoid swimming among dead fish in these tides, as these can be associated with harmful bacteria.

If you experience any respiratory symptoms or skin irritation caused by red tides, it is important to get out of the water immediately and thoroughly wash off. Although the symptoms are typically temporary, people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions are advised to avoid red tide areas entirely.

It is important to note that many people still enjoy the beaches during red tides, so this phenomenon should not put a damper on your day.

Make sure to protect yourself and family against Florida Red Tide exposure by reading all signage when you go to area beaches, as not all beaches are affected and conditions can change daily. Check the Mote Marine twice daily Beach Conditions Report at or call 1-941-BEACHES.

For more information regarding red tide, visit our Links to our Partners:

  • Please visit the FWC website,, for updates on the status of red tide in Florida.
  • The latest red tide status reports from the FWC are also available by phone. Call 866-300-9399 at anytime from anywhere in Florida to hear a recording about red tide conditions throughout the state.
  • Callers outside of Florida can dial 727-552-2448. Standard calling charges apply.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Department of Commerce: Red Tide FAQ:
  • Florida Fish and Life Conservation Commission: Red Tide Current Status:

If you’re experiencing symptoms from red tide exposure or have questions, FastCare is here for you. We have board-certified doctors in family practice on staff who see all patients. Our locations are open every day, including weekends and holidays. In Aventura, our hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Miami Beach FastCare hours are weekdays 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekends 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and holidays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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