When seagulls attack: Cornish pharmacists treating record numbers hurt by aggressive birds


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Pharmacists in Cornwall say they are providing first aid to a growing number of people attacked by seagulls in the popular holiday destination.

Seagulls pinching chips is a familiar sight at the UK seaside, but there are growing reports that the birds are becoming more aggressive. In 2015 a seagull attacked and killed a dog, prompting then PM David Cameron to call for a ‘big conversation’ over the protected status of the birds. There have been other reports of pensioners being knocked down and hospitalised by gulls.

Cuts to face and hands

Seagulls seem to be particularly aggressive in Cornwall, where Royal Mail recently suspended deliveries to one area due to attacks on their postmen. Indeed, pharmacists at the Cornish seaside say they now regularly provide first aid treatment for injuries caused by seagulls, according to the area’s clinical commissioning group NHS Kernow.

Claire Field, community pharmacist at Carbis Bay, close to St Ives, said the injuries can be severe: ‘We have even seen adults and young children with cuts around and inside their mouths as well as their hands where sneaky seagulls have swooped down to take their food.’

At Ms Field’s Leddra pharmacy alone, they see one to two people per week with a seagull injury, but she warned that there are likely many more affected.

‘The reality is that there are probably more people who have been attacked by them but have decided to treat the wounds themselves rather than seek the advice of a pharmacist,’ she said.

And what advice do they offer to injured holidaymakers? ‘Obviously it depends on the seriousness of the injury on what treatment advice we would give, but the minimum that would be required would be to clean the area with a good antiseptic.’

She also reminded people to make sure they have an up-to-date tetanus vaccination, as seagulls aren’t the cleanest of birds and have been known to carry E. Coli and Salmonella.

‘Seriously aggressive’ gulls

Mum-of-two Emily Turner was holidaying in St Ives with her family when they were attacked by the gulls.

She said they were ‘seriously aggressive’ and warned against eating outside. ‘My son had a gull cling off his front and peck at his ice cream and I had a gull land on my shoulder and swipe my ice cream before I’d even had a bite,’ she said. ‘I would advise not to eat while walking around the town or find a good hiding spot.’

She added: ‘Luckily we were not injured in these attacks but if we had been, then it’s good to know that we could have received treatment from a pharmacist rather than having to find the nearest doctor.’

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