CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spring break has arrived in Tampa Bay, marking the start of an unofficial holiday season that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area's beaches.

However, beachgoers are likely to face an unpleasant surprise as red tide has already made its mark on the shoreline.

What You Need To Know

  • Spring break has started in Tampa Bay, but visitors may face red tide concerns at the beaches

  • Red tide has caused symptoms such as throat irritation and coughing fits for some beachgoers

  • Local businesses are hopeful that tourists will push through the discomfort caused by the red tide and contribute to the peak season's success

  • RED TIDE: Check the latest stories, see a map of affected areas

The effects of red tide have caused some visitors to experience symptoms such as throat irritation, sinus congestion and occasional coughing fits.

"It's got my asthma going," said Shawn Snook, a visitor to the beach. "But you know, it’s the beach, so we’re going to push through it."

The red tide has also left a bad taste in the mouths of some beachgoers, making a casual day at the beach a little more restless.

Local businesses such as We The Pizza in Clearwater Beach are hoping that the visitors will push through the discomfort, as March marks the beginning of peak season, and business owners like Starvos Godevas are counting on the increase in tourist activity.

"I hope customers don’t feel it that much," said Godevas. "Obviously if the customer base is affected by it then business-wise I’m affected by it as well." However, he remains optimistic that the red tide won't leave his business in the red before peak season is over.

"Going into the season I feel confident," said Godevas. "I feel like we’re going to do good. It’s already started to pick up. The beach is nice. The weather, it can’t get much nicer than this. So I’m happy so far overall."

Red tide is a phenomenon that occurs when an excess of nutrients in the water causes an overgrowth of harmful algae. The algae produce toxins that can harm marine life, and can also cause respiratory irritation and other health problems in humans.

As the peak season approaches, local authorities are urging visitors to stay informed about the red tide situation and to take precautions to protect their health.