Being stung by a jellyfish can be a fairly painful experience. While only a handful of species are deadly, there are thousands of others drifting about the oceans capable of delivering a pretty nasty sting. As is the case when administering first-aid in most emergency situations, the faster you treat a jellyfish sting the better. Using these helpful tips on how to treat jellyfish stings, you ought to be able to limit both the severity of the initial symptoms as well as the lingering side effects.
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The pain from a jellyfish sting is often instantaneous. In true fight or flight fashion, most people react to a jellyfish sting by attempting to remove themselves from the situation immediately. Panicking however may only make matters worse. Once stung, the best thing to do is to remain calm.
By simply heading for shore you may be putting yourself at risk of more stings from other jellyfish or swimming into other tentacles from the same jellyfish. First, look to identify the location of the jellyfish. This is not always possible as some species are exceptionally small and nearly translucent.
Note: If this is a sting from a Box jellyfish or a Man o’ War, seek medical attention immediately. An anti-venom is necessary to prevent injury and/or death.
The next step is to remove any tentacles or nematocysts (these are the microscopic barbs on the tentacles themselves) from the affected area. Do not use your bare hand to do so. Using an ID card, the backside of a knife, or any other flat surface gently wipe over the sting and surrounding area. This will prevent further injury.
Thanks in part to Friends, the vast majority of people believe the next step is to neutralize the sting by either personally urinating on the sting, or having a dear comrade do so. The idea being, the ammonia in the urine will actually help neutralize the sting. This is wildly incorrect. This approach will only leave you soaked in urine and potentially in even more pain for no real reason. Urine can actually trigger the embedded stingers to release even more venom, so — for a bevy of reasons — just don’t.
Instead, rinse the area thoroughly with salt water–this is what will be predominantly within the individual stings themselves and will prevent any unnecessary pH fluctuations.
Once the area is neutralized, the best solution for treating jellyfish stings is vinegar. Just rinse the area with vinegar directly, repeating this process as needed. Do not rub the vinegar into the wound. Scratching and rubbing will only increase the risk of more venom being released.
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To treat stings around the eyes, pour vinegar onto a damp towel and dab the stings gently, avoiding contact with the eyes. Afterward, soak the area in hot water for approximately 30 minutes. If the area cannot be soaked, take a hot shower with the faucet aimed directly at the sting.
Next cover the sting in an antibiotic cream and apply a bandage. These bandages will need to be changed throughout the day. Ice packs, antihistamines, hydrocortisone creams, aloe, and pain killers can be used to treat continuing discomfort and inflammation. Other popular topological treatments include meat tenderizer, ethanol, and gasoline although none of these have been scientifically verified.
In the event you or a friend run into a bloom jellyfish you’ll know exactly what to do. And fortunately, this in no way involves spritzing anyone in urine.
Photo Credits: Feature, Rick Sargeant via 123rf.com/profile_Sgtphoto, Sting image, Thomas Quine via Flickr