Taking the Sting out of that Jellyfish ‘Sting’

Filming in Australia in 2007 had to be halted on the Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey film “Fools Gold”. Anyone who has seen the completed film could probably argue that this was an ‘act of God’.

But what isn’t a joke is the fact that the resident scientist and water safety officer had captured no less than 5 of a jellyfish known as Irukandji, a creature with a body ‘no larger than a thumbnail’ with tentacles that extend 2 to 4 feet below its body.Despite its diminutive size, it’s believed that this jellyfish is responsible for most of the deaths due to sting in Australia over the last century.

But it’s not just Australia where the danger lies. Because of the effect of climate change on the temperature of the world’s oceans, some warm water creatures are beginning to be routinely found outside their normal range. This means that people not educated about these dangerous creatures may find themselves exposed to them.

Jellyfish Sting Treatment

While the proper way to treat a jellyfish sting seems hotly contested among the people that routinely treat them, here’s a few that seem to be pretty universally accepted:

1. Rinse off tentacles – The sting of a jellyfish comes from nerve cells in its tentacles called nematocysts. When its prey (or perhaps YOU!) comes into contact with these cells, they will detach and stick to your skin, not unlike a bee leaves it’s stinger behind. If you should happen to catch a sting in the eye, immediately flush the eye with 1 gallon of FRESH water, for anywhere else on your body, rinse them off with SALT water, as fresh water can actually cause the sting to become more painful.

2. Peel off tentacles – Use gloves and a pair of tweezers if they happen to be on hand. Otherwise, it is recommended that you use a shell and something to stand in for shaving cream (or shaving cream if you have it) and use the shell to ‘shave’ across the affected area to remove the remaining tentacles.

3. Immerse stung area in hot water – Water that is over 110 degrees Fahrenheit is good, but water that is over 140 degrees Fahrenheit is even better. Of course, it’s difficult to measure temperature without a thermometer, so a good rule of thumb is to use as hot of water as the person can stand. This can help to draw whatever toxins remain out, lessening the effect of the sting.

4. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen – Take ibuprofen or aceteminophen to relieve pain.

It’s believed that the number of deaths due to jellyfish sting is not great, because people generally seek medical attention for something that hurts. Be aware of any unusual pain or sting when you’re in or just out of the water. If you’ve been stung, but are unsure of the culprit it’s always ‘better safe than sorry’.

The sting of a jellyfish can be deadly for those that are allergic, but more important; there are quite a few types of jellyfish stings that can be deadly even to those who are not allergic. Always ask the locals about what kind of critters are lurking in the local waters; If you see a really great beach on a sunny day, and there is hardly anyone in the water, there’s often a pretty good reason for it.

And, because someone will ask: there is no evidence that urinating on a jellyfish sting helps at all. The acidity of urine is generally not enough to be of any use. In fact, you really have a better chance of relieving the pain by dousing the sting in water from the nearby ocean.


Have you suffered from a jellyfish sting? If so please share your treatment in the comments below

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