Jellyfish Stings: What to Do and How to Prevent Them

Jellyfish are fascinating creatures that inhabit oceans and coastal waters around the world. While many species of jellyfish are harmless, some can deliver painful stings that can ruin a day at the beach or cause more serious health issues. Therefore, it is important to act promptly and correctly. When stung by a jellyfish, urinating on the affected area is a common but ineffective myth, as it does not provide significant relief or aid in the treatment of the sting. In this article, we will explore what to do if you have been stung by a jellyfish and provide some tips on how to prevent jellyfish stings altogether.

What to Do If You Have Been Stung:

  1. Get out of the water: If you’ve been stung by a jellyfish, the first step is to remove yourself from the water. This will help minimise the risk of being stung again and allow you to assess the severity of the sting. Try not to touch the area with bare hands.
  2. Rinse with seawater: It may seem counterintuitive, but rinsing the affected area with seawater can help remove any tentacles that may still be attached. Avoid using freshwater, as this can activate the jellyfish’s stinging cells and make the situation worse.
  3. Remove tentacles: Carefully remove any tentacles that are still on the skin. You can use a credit card, a gloved hand or even the edge of a shell to gently scrape or lift the tentacles away. Be cautious not to touch them directly with bare hands, as this can lead to additional stings.
  4. Apply vinegar or a baking soda solution: After removing the tentacles, apply vinegar or a baking soda solution. Vinegar is a weak acid that helps neutralise the venom of some jellyfish species, while baking soda can help to dull pain and reduce the release of venom. Leave it on for about 15 to 30 minutes.
  5. Soak in hot water: If the pain persists, soaking the affected area in hot water (around 45°C or 113°F) for 20 to 45 minutes can help relieve the symptoms. The heat can deactivate the toxins and alleviate discomfort. Ensure the water is not scalding hot to avoid burns. It is advised to use hot as opposed to cold remedies as most marine venoms are known to be heat sensitive.
  6. Seek medical attention if necessary: In some cases, jellyfish stings can be fatal and cause severe allergic reactions or more serious symptoms. If you experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, or if the pain is overwhelming, seek immediate medical help. Healthcare professionals can provide the appropriate treatment or suggest over-the-counter creams and pain relievers such as ibuprofen to manage pain and swelling.

Prevention Tips for Future Reference:

  1. Be aware of jellyfish presence: Before entering the water, keep an eye out for any warning signs. Check with lifeguards or local authorities about any reported jellyfish sightings or beach closures due to jellyfish blooms. Being informed about the presence of jellyfish can help you make the right decision about any water activity.
  2. Wear protective clothing: If you’re planning to swim in an area known for jellyfish, consider wearing a rash guard, wetsuit or other protective clothing to limit skin exposure. You can find swim gear at any local diving store. These garments are made of thin, high-tech fabric offering not only practical use but peace of mind. Alongside your clothing, don’t forget about footwear. Aim to find yourself some water shoes as stings can also occur whilst walking along the tideline or wading in the shallows.
  3. Use sunscreen or other protective lotions: Apply sunscreen generously before heading to the beach. Lotions can create a protective layer on your body that may make it more difficult for jellyfish tentacles to adhere to the skin.
  4. Swim in designated areas: Whenever possible, swim in designated swimming areas with lifeguards present. These areas are typically monitored and have nets or other protective measures in place to minimise the risk of jellyfish encounters.
  5. Be cautious in the water: Whilst in the water, be cautious and observe your surroundings. If you spot a jellyfish, calmly remove yourself from its path and inform others of its presence. Avoid touching or swimming near them, jellyfish are capable of stinging in water or hours after they have died and washed up on shore.

Our Thoughts…

Jellyfish stings can be painful and, in some cases, pose serious health risks. By following the steps mentioned above and taking preventive measures, you can greatly reduce the chances of being stung. If you do get stung, know that most jellyfish stings will improve with time using simple home remedies. However, if panicked seek advice from RNLI or if in Saundersfoot then head for our paddleboard school, a safe space that can offer a helping hand!

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