Jellyfish: What to Do if You Get Stung

Pictured above are the stunning moon jellyfish, one of the most common jellyfish species in our oceans. Most of the time, these jellyfish won’t sting humans, but there are plenty of jellyfish who will if they feel threatened.

If you are going to swim in the ocean, it is important to know how to handle a jellyfish sting in order to minimize the discomfort and maximize calmness.

Step One: Remove the nematocysts (venomous stingers). Do this by first washing away any tentacles still stuck to you with salt water. Do not use fresh water.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that you use credit cards to brush off any nematocysts still stuck in your skin. If you use your fingers, you may get stung, and if you use any fabric, you may release more venom.

Step Two: Deactivate Nematocysts. You have two options that the Mayo Clinic recommends for this.

1) Rinse the affected area with generous amounts of vinegar for 30 seconds.

2) Mix salt water and baking soda to create a paste to apply to the affected area. (This is recommended for Portuguese Man-O-War and Sea Nettle stings.)

Step Three: Soothe the pain. Calamine lotion or other anti-itch lotions will soothe the irritation. Physicians are still debating whether or not warm water or cool water is the best way to soak your sting. Talk to a doctor to find out the best way to deal with your discomfort.

 

Jellyfish stings can range in severity. It can take anywhere from a few weeks or even a few months for a jellyfish sting to go away completely.

A “standard” jellyfish sting will include immediate burning pain, marks on the skin that will show where the tentacle came into contact (can be purplish, red, or brown), itching, tingling, numbness, radiating throbbing pain.

Severe jellyfish stings require immediate medical attention, especially if the person was stung all over. Reactions to jellyfish stings can occur immediately or over the course of a few hours.

Severe symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle spasms, weakness, dizziness, fever, loss of consciousness, irregular heartbeat, and more.*

 

Jellyfish are common, but most of the time they are content going on about their jellyfish lives and not stinging you. If you do come in to contact with one, do not panic! Stay calm, and retreat to shore if you can.

Most beaches will have a conditions chart where the lifeguard will write the daily sea conditions. (This can be found either on the lifeguard stand, or at the entrance to the beach.) This will usually include if there are any sea pests or dangerous marine life in the area. Always check this before you continue on to the beach!

If the beach you are going to does not have a conditions chart, exercise even greater caution.

If you are fascinated by jellyfish, or if you want to know which jellies have been spotted in your area, then check out JellyWatch. This excellent organization provides information on jellyfish sightings throughout the world. You can even add your own jellyfish sighting if you want!

Don’t fear the jelly!

 

*Information provided thanks to the research and expertise of the Mayo Clinic. The Beach Review is not written by a medical physician, and should not be used as a substitute to professional medical advice. Seek a medical professional if you or someone else is experiencing a severe jellyfish reaction.

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