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Treating a jellyfish sting

Stings of jellyfish are common problems of those who love to engage in swimming, diving and simply paddling in sea water. The tentacles trailing from the body of the jellyfish can inject a person with venom from thousands of microscopic barbed stingers. Stings of jellyfish can cause pain, red-colored and irritated marks in different parts of the body. Some stings can cause the illness of the whole body and sometimes their stings are life-threatening.

Symptoms of jellyfish stings

  • There is itching and swelling
  • Burning, stinging pain and prickling
  • A throbbing pain that spread up to the leg or arm and there is tingling and numbness
  • Presence of red, brown or purplish tracks on the skin which appears like a “print” of the tentacles contact with the skin
Jellyfish sting

A throbbing pain that spread up to the leg or arm and there is tingling and numbness

A jellyfish sting that is very severe can affect the body systems and the symptoms may occur immediately or after several hours after the sting and can cause the following:

  • Muscle and joint problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches and fever
  • Weakness and dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Problems with the heart
  • Loss of consciousness


Causes of jellyfish stings

Tentacles of the jellyfish have microscopic barbed stingers and each stinger has a tiny bulb that function in holding the venom and a coiled, sharp-tipped tube, which is used by the jellyfish for protection and killing prey.

A brush against a tentacle will cause the tiny triggers found on the surface to release the stingers and the tube will penetrate the skin and release the venom and affects immediately the area of contact and will enter the bloodstream. Jellyfish that are washed up on a beach shores can still release venom if touched.

Some types of jellyfish that can cause severe pain and cause systemic reaction include the box jellyfish which causes intense pain and some life threatening reaction.

Portuguese man-of-war lives in warm seas they have a blue or purplish gas-filled bubble that floats in the water like a sail.  The sea nettle is found mostly in both warm and cool seawater along the northeast coast of the United States. The Lion’s mane jellyfish are considered as the biggest up to 1 meter in length and they are found in cooler seawaters such as the Atlantic Ocean.

Treatment and home remedies

  • Remove pieces of jellyfish tentacle in the skin by rinsing the wound using seawater or scraping off the stingers using the edge of an ID card or credit card. Prevent sand from entering the wound and do not rinse the wound using fresh water or rubbing the affected area with a towel since this will cause the activation of more stingers. It is best that you are prepared by enrolling in a first aid course
  • Rinse the affected area using vinegar for about 30 seconds or apply a paste with a mixture of baking soda and seawater since this method disables the stingers of some types of jellyfish.
  • Take hot showers that can be tolerated but not above 113 F or 45 C and then apply an ice pack to help minimize the pain.
  • Apply calamine lotion or lidocaine in order to minimize the itchiness and discomfort.
  • Some remedies to be avoided are meat tenderizer, human urine, pressure bandages and solvents like formalin, ethanol and gasoline

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