Be Aware Of Jellyfish: Why They Can Be Dangerous, And What To Do After Getting Stung ASAP

Date June 12, 2018 16:00

Some people find jellyfish fascinating, while others find these sea creatures yucky. Whatever you think of them, you probably know to stay away from jellyfish, as their stings can be extremely painful. Some species’ stings may even be life-threatening. Certain cases require a trip to the ER, while others can be treated with some remedies at hand.

Below, we list symptoms of a jellyfish sting, species to be wary of, tips on what to do after getting stung, and a few ways to avoid stings.

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Symptoms caused by a jellyfish sting

If a sting is not very serious, symptoms are usually limited to the area affected by the sting and include the following:

  • burning, prickling, stinging, and/or throbbing pain;
  • red, purplish, or brown marks on the affected area;
  • itching;
  • swelling.

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If no whole-body symptoms appear, such stings can be treated using a simple common remedy.

If a sting is serious, there will be systemic (affecting the whole body) symptoms. They include the following:

  • difficulty breathing;
  • heart problems;
  • stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting;
  • headache;
  • a rash that spreads fast (and beyond the directly affected area);
  • muscle spasms and pain;
  • dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion;
  • loss of consciousness.

If there are any severe symptoms, emergency medical help is needed. Also, you need to go to the ER if the sting affected the eyes or mouth.

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What to do after being stung

If you don’t have any whole-body symptoms, treating only the sting itself would be enough. Here’s what you should do:

  1. If you realize you’ve been stung, get out of water.
  2. Rinse the affected area with vinegar for 30 seconds or more.
  3. Carefully remove tentacles with tweezers.
  4. After you’ve completed the first 3 steps, immerse the affected area in moderately hot plain water (113ºF = 45ºC) for 20 to 40 minutes.

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These steps are the first aid for jellyfish stings. Afterwards, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and over-the-counter ointments may help with the symptoms. If the sting left open sores, it’s recommended to apply topical antibiotics and bandage the area to avoid infection.

If you have severe symptoms, you need emergency medical help. Call 911 (or your local emergency number) right away, or have someone make the call.

“Remedies” to avoid

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If you’ve been stung by a jellyfish, follow the procedure described above. But don’t use the following, as applying these may be ineffective or even worsen your symptoms:

  • urine;
  • alcohol;
  • baking soda;
  • meat tenderizer;
  • pressure bandage;
  • fresh water rinse;
  • scraping out stingers;
  • rubbing with a towel.

The most dangerous types of jellyfish

Most jellyfish species are unlikely to cause significant harm to humans. However, there are certain types of jellyfish whose stings can lead to a more severe reaction. These include the following:

1. Box jellyfish

Their stings can cause severe pain and even life-threatening reactions. Species of box jellyfish that can cause serious harm live in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

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2. Portuguese man-of-war

These sea creatures live in warm seas.

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3. Sea nettle

Sea nettles are most common along the northeast coast of the U.S., especially in the Chesapeake Bay.

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4. Lion's mane jellyfish

These jellyfish are the biggest ones, measuring more than 3 feet (1 meter) across. They live in cooler, northern regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

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How to lower your risk of getting stung by a jellyfish

To avoid stings altogether, you can simply stay away from ocean and sea water. To lower your risk, you can do the following:

  • don’t touch jellyfish that have been washed ashore, as they may still be alive and sting you;
  • wear a wetsuit when swimming;
  • stay out of the water during jellyfish season;
  • before swimming in the water where jellyfish may be present, learn about common species in the area;
  • when at the beach, pay attention to jellyfish warnings, if there are any.

Source: Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Medical News Today

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.