How to Tend to a Jellyfish Sting

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A day out in the ocean takes a nosedive when jellyfish appear in the ocean. The only way to avoid getting stung is by getting out of the water. But what happens if you don’t move fast enough? If you take your medical advice from sitcoms, you might think that you have to pee on the sting to make it go away. But is there any truth to this clichéd gag?

First Aid

According to both Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, jellyfish stings are easily treated with basic first aid. Only a few types of stings require a trip to the hospital. The severity of the sting and the pain it causes depends on the size and type of the jellyfish.

The bigger the jellyfish, the more it hurts. And certain species, such as the box jellyfish, can cause rare, but severe reactions that require hospitalization. 

Here are some recommended steps to follow according to Cleveland Clinic:

  1. If you are stung at the beach or in the ocean, pour seawater onto the part of your body that was stung. Do not use freshwater.
  2. Use tweezers to remove any tentacles you see in your skin.
  3. Next, apply vinegar or rubbing alcohol to the affected area to stop the burning feeling and the release the toxin.
  4. After you have poured vinegar on the site, apply shaving cream or a mixture of baking soda and seawater. When this is dry, scrape the mixture off with a credit card.
  5. To help reduce the pain, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. You can also use an ice pack or hot water to help with the pain and swelling.

More Severe Symptoms

If you experience blisters, rashes, and skin irritation after a couple of weeks, then it may be time to see a doctor. Life-threatening symptoms or Irukandji Syndrome sometimes occur when people are stung by the Irukandji jellyfish. Reactions include chest pain, high blood pressure, stomach pain, and heart problems. In that circumstance, it’s definitely important that you get to a hospital as soon as possible.

To avoid jellyfish altogether, you can stay in the pool or look for signs at the beach that warn beachgoers about surf conditions and venomous sea creatures. These will usually be in the form of colored flags near the boardwalk or lifeguard station. And when in doubt, seek medical aid. Don’t try to fix it yourself using a tip you pulled from an episode of Friends. Odds are, you’ll only make it worse.

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