The good news is that jellyfish stings are usually not lethal. The bad news is that when a jellyfish stings you, it releases thousands of tiny spines that stick to the skin and excrete venom. Usually, the poison will cause discomfort or a painful red rash. In rare situations, jellyfish venom can cause pain throughout the body. If you or someone you know has had the bad luck of being stung by a jellyfish, quick and sure steps can save you.
Part 1 of 4: Knowing What to Do Immediately
Step 1. Identify the right time to call emergency services and seek quick help
Usually, jellyfish stings do not require medical intervention. However, if you or someone else is in these situations, seek medical help immediately:
- The sting affects most of the arms, legs, body, face, or genitals.
- The sting causes a serious allergic reaction, including (but not limited to) difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, or a racing heart.
- The sting comes from the box jellyfish. This species has a very strong poison. Box jellyfish are found on the coast of Australia and the Indo-Pacific waters, as well as in Hawaii. This animal is pale blue in color and has a cuboid or "medusa" head. Box jellyfish can grow up to 2 meters.
Step 2. Get ashore as calmly as possible
To avoid the risk of being repeatedly stung by a jellyfish and get treatment right away, get ashore as soon as possible after you get a sting.
When ashore, try not to scratch or touch the sting area with your hands. It's possible that the jellyfish's tentacles are still attached to your skin, so you'll get stung again when you scratch or touch the sting area
Step 3. Rinse the sting area with sea water
Once out of the water, rinse the sting area with salt water (not fresh water) to remove any tentacles or stinger tissue that is still attached to the skin.
Do not rub the sting area with a towel after rinsing because the sting that is still attached can work
Step 4. Flush the tentacles with vinegar for 30 seconds
For maximum effectiveness, mix vinegar with hot water. This mixture is the most effective first aid medium for dealing with various types of jellyfish stings. Make sure the water temperature is not too hot so that the skin does not burn or scald.
Some types of jellyfish stings can be treated better using a mixture of salt water and baking soda
Part 2 of 4: Lifting the Jellyfish Tentacles from the Skin
Step 1. Carefully scrape the remaining tentacles
After the sting area is rinsed, scrape the remaining tentacles off the skin using a plastic object, such as the side of a debit/credit card.
- Do not lift the tentacles by rubbing a washcloth or towel over the sting area because the stinging cells can work.
- Remain still while lifting the tentacles. The more you move around while trying to lift the tentacles, the more poison will be released.
- If you're in shock, make sure someone else calls emergency services and calms you down as much as possible.
Step 2. Dispose of contaminated items or materials
Eliminate the risk of accidentally getting a jellyfish sting again. Discard any items that may still have the jellyfish tentacles on them, such as items you used to scrape the tentacles or clothing you were wearing when the sting occurred.
Step 3. Treat pain with heat
Once the tentacles are removed, relieve the pain by soaking the sting area in hot (not boiling!) water. Use water with an ambient temperature of 40-45°C to prevent burns. Several studies have shown that heat kills toxins and relieves pain more effectively than ice.
Step 4. Relieve pain with painkillers
If you experience severe pain, take a pain reliever such as paracetamol or ibuprofen in the recommended dose. Ibuprofen can also relieve inflammation caused by jellyfish stings.
Part 3 of 4: Avoiding Common Mistakes
Step 1. Do not treat a jellyfish sting with urine
The opinion that urine can overcome jellyfish stings may come from ancient myths or stories. This belief was then strengthened after one episode of the Friends series featured scenes of using urine to treat jellyfish stings as a comedic effect. In fact, you do not need to wet the sting area with urine!
Step 2. Do not pour fresh water on the sting area
Usually, jellyfish stings occur in the sea. This means that the nematodes (sting cells) in jellyfish contain a lot of salt water. Changes in the salt water solution in nematosis can actually activate toxic cells. When sprinkled on the wound, fresh water will change the salt water content in the nematosis. Therefore, keep using salt water to rinse the stung area.
Step 3. Do not use meat tenderizer to numb the stinger
There are no studies that show the effectiveness of using these products and it is possible that meat tenderizer powder can actually endanger your safety.
Step 4. Realize that using alcohol on the stung area can have a negative impact
Like using fresh water on the skin, alcohol encourages the nematodes to excrete more toxins and cause more intense pain.
Part 4 of 4: Dealing with Pain and Taking Further Steps
Step 1. Clean and cover the wound with a bandage
After removing all the tentacles and relieving the pain, clean the wound with warm water. You don't need to use salt water because the nematodes that react with fresh water have been removed. If the skin still looks irritated or blistered, cover the wound with a bandage and cover it with gauze.
Step 2. Clean the sting area
Three times a day, clean the wound with warm water and apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin. After that, re-wrap the wound with a bandage and gauze.
Step 3. Use oral and topical antihistamines to relieve itching and irritation
Relieve skin irritation with over-the-counter antihistamine pills or topical creams that contain diphenhydramine or calamine.
Step 4. Wait for one day until the pain subsides or the irritation disappears
Within 5-10 minutes after treatment, the pain will begin to subside. After a full day, usually the pain felt will disappear. If you still have pain after a full day, see a doctor or specialist immediately for professional treatment, especially if you haven't had this treatment before.
- In rare situations, jellyfish stings can cause infection or scarring, but most people don't experience either condition, even after experiencing a painful sting.
- In much less common conditions, sufferers may develop hypersensitivity to the venom for one or several weeks after being stung. Blisters or skin irritation may appear suddenly. While this type of hypersensitivity is generally harmless, it's a good idea to see a doctor or dermatologist for help.
- Ask the coast guard for help if you have one. Usually lifeguards are experienced in dealing with jellyfish stings and have the equipment and expertise needed to deal with stings quickly and effectively.
- Often, the victim does not see the creature or animal that caused the sting. If the symptoms of a sting do not go away or get worse, seek medical attention immediately after you are stung by a sea animal.
- There are several treatments that may be needed, depending on the species of jellyfish that stung you and the severity of the injury. If you get a box jellyfish sting, an anti-venom injection will be given to neutralize the venom. If the sting causes impaired liver function, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and epinephrine injections may be required.
- Do not put mixtures such as salt water and baking soda into your eyes or apply them to the area around the eyes. Dip a clean towel or washcloth in the mixture and dab it around the eye area.
- Do not leave the meat tenderizer powder on the skin for more than 15 minutes.
- Never rub the tentacles as this can cause more excruciating pain. Pluck or scrape the tentacles from the skin to remove them.