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Jellyfish Stings

Jellyfish leave behind stingers called nematocysts or tentacles in the skin. There can be thousands of them. And, no, peeing on a jellyfish sting is not a treatment option. Read more...




jellyfish sting

Photo: Wix

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Can peeing on a jellyfish sting help treat it?

No, in spite of what you may have heard, peeing on a jellyfish sting is not a great idea. It makes for great television as Joey, Chandler, and Monica experienced in the iconic Friends episode that has everyone assuming this to be the treatment of choice. However, if you pee on your jellyfish sting, there is a good chance it will sting even more. That's also gross. I cannot imagine how many people have figured this out the hard way.

After someone is stung by a jellyfish, what should they immediately do to treat it on the beach and back home?

Jellyfish leave behind stingers called nematocysts or tentacles in the skin. There can be thousands of them. These stingers continue to release their venom into the skin causing pain, itching, and burning.

If you have vinegar available, rinse this over the area (adding a small bottle to a first aid kit is a good idea). If you do not have vinegar, think warm or hot water (not scalding just warm) to ease the pain, NOT ice or cold water as this will worsen the pain. Saltwater is preferable to freshwater.

If you have tweezers, use these to remove the little stingers (if you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to add tweezers to your first aid kit). If you do not have tweezers, two credit cards pushing toward each other can be used as makeshift tweezers.

If tweezers aren't available, what might someone use to remove stingers?

If tweezers are not available on the beach, there are a few life hacks that may work in this setting:

  • taking two credit cards pressing towards each other to grip the stingers.

  • taking two popsicle sticks and gently pressing them towards each other.

  • take sand that is slightly wet to form a paste- cover the area. Let it dry, then take one credit card or your hotel keycard to scrape away.

What are the best OTC remedies for pain and a rash or hives?

Pain relief with hydrocortisone or calamine lotion is helpful. Antihistamines by mouth can reduce swelling and inflammation.

What signs indicate someone should seek emergency medical care for a jellyfish sting?

If there is any sign of shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle cramps, blisters, nausea or vomiting, swelling of the lips/eyes/or tongue, trouble swallowing, or numbness, it is important to seek emergency care.

After self-care for a sting, what signs indicate someone should see a doctor and why?

A persistent rash that is potentially worsening or not resolving is reasonable to seek out care. Severe pain, tenderness, or any signs of anaphylaxis warrant medical attention.

jellyfish sting


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