Here’s What to Know About Florida’s Red Tide

The smell is just the beginning.

Ryan McGill/Shutterstock
Ryan McGill/Shutterstock
Ryan McGill/Shutterstock

As someone who spent the first 18 years of my life in Florida, there are three gross beach smells I’m intimately familiar with: vomit mixed with saltwater and liquor, seagull poop, and hundreds of dead fish baking in the sun. As an unfortunate expert with the latter, I’ve got a few tips for anyone planning a trip to Florida that is worried about red tide ruining their trip.

This is typically not a concern during the spring months in Florida, which is why you might not have accounted for it in your spring break planning. WUSF reports that the early arrival of red tide, which typically occurs during the summer and fall, is something that locals and tourists alike will need to consider. As someone who has seen and smelt too much of this event in their lifetime, here’s what you need to know about the smelly and harmful occurrence.

What is red tide?

Red tide is an event caused by toxic algae blooms. According to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, red tide occurs when an algae called Karenia brevis appears in “higher-than-normal concentrations.” The algae is microscopic, but very powerful. It produces a neurotoxin (a poison) that can kill sea animals and harm humans. Water temperature and the availability of certain nutrients contribute to the algae multiplying quickly. As the Earth’s temperature increases and coastal waters warm earlier in the year,¬†it is possible that we will see more frequent red tides.

How can red tide harm humans?

The neurotoxins produced by the algae can cause “respiratory irritation,” according to Mote. Anyone with pre-existing respiratory issues is particularly vulnerable to illness. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Service announced that in the past week, “respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide” was reported in at least seven counties.

Does red tide really make the beach smell?

The algae itself isn’t the main offender when it comes to the stench. That’d be the dead fish. In Fort Myers, local news reported that 10 tons of dead fish have already been removed from area beaches, with another three tons awaiting removal. So, yes. While you won’t always be able to tell if an area is experiencing red tide, if you’re noticing an abnormally high number of sea animal carcasses on the shore, that is a pretty strong indicator.

Where is the red tide in Florida right now?

As of this publication, the reported areas experiencing red tide are in Southwest Florida. You can check the status of many Florida beaches at or for updated information about red tide and other conditions. Right now, reports related to red tide have come from the following seven counties:

  • Pinellas
  • Manatee
  • Sarasota
  • Charlotte
  • Lee
  • Collier
  • Monroe
Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision
Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision
Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commision

What do you do when red tide happens during your vacation?

Unfortunately, if you are in an area where these algae blooms have been occurring, there’s a possibility that you could experience irritation or worse. “Swimming is safe for most people,” Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium outlined. “However, the Florida red tide can cause some people to suffer skin irritation and burning eyes. People with respiratory illness may also experience respiratory irritation in the water. Use common sense.”

If you do have respiratory issues, entering the water isn’t the only way red tide can cause problems, because the algae can be carried in the wind. Make sure to wear a mask if you are feeling irritation. If you are staying in a seaside hotel, keep your windows closed and run the air conditioner.

For additional information and health guidance, check out or Stay safe and enjoy the Florida sun however you can!

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.


Mad Mex’s New Menu Item Is Inspired by a Popular Mexican Street Food

mad mex chicken al pastor

Mexican restaurant chain Mad Mex has dropped a new protein, and it’s one of the most popular street foods in Mexico.

Enter, Chicken Al Pastor. It’s traditionally made with pork and grilled on a spinning rotisserie with a pineapple sitting a top, but Mad Mex has put its own spin on it, serving chicken bathed in an Al Pastor marinade with a touch of juicy pineapple.

You can order the protein-packed filling in your favourite burrito, bowl, quesadilla, nachos, or in a taco.

As always, these things are here for a good time, not a long time. Pop into your local Mad Mex restaurant, order delivery or through the Mad Mex app today.

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