How To Treat Jellyfish Stings

As the jellyfish are starting to spawn now, I thought it was good timing for information on how to treat jellyfish stings. The following information is courtesy of : JELLYFISH Jellyfish and their larger cousin the Portuguese man-of-war are two of the most common stinging marine animals. Their long tentacles contain stinging cells. When they brush against you, the cells pierce your skin and release their poison. Even severed or damaged tentacles can inflict severe wounds. Here's what to do if you have a run-in with one of these sea creatures. Rinse! Immediately rinse the wound with saltwater, says Arthur Jacknowitz, Pharm.D., a professor of clinical pharmacy and chairman of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at West Virginia University. Do not use fresh water because it will activate any stinging cells that have not already ruptured. For the same reason, do not rub the skin.


Neutralize the stinging cells. Work on alleviating the pain by rinsing the area with one of the following. The sooner you can apply it, the better. Even so, relief may last only an hour or two, so reapply the liquid as necessary.

Alcohol. Splash alcohol over the affected areas, says Dr. Jacknowitz. Although rubbing alcohol is preferred, you may use wine, liquor, or any other alcohol that's available.

Vinegar. Dr. Luscombe recommends splashing on vinegar as soon as you can. (It wouldn't hurt to take along a large bottle of vinegar whenever you go to the beach.)

Ammonia. Ammonia is also effective, he says.

Meat tenderizer. Meat tenderizer contains an enzyme that deactivates venom protein and can help prevent the rupture of stinging cells, says Dr. Jacknowitz. Dissolve it in saltwater and pat it on.

Remove any attached tentacles. If there are tentacles clinging to your skin, now's the time to remove the. Do not, however, touch them with your bare hands. Instead, try one of these techniques.

    * Wrap your hand in a towel or cloth and wipe away all attached tentacles, says Stephen Rosenberg, M.D., an associate professor of clinical public health at Columbia University School of Public Health.
    * Use shaving cream and gentle shaving, says Dr. Jacknowitz.
    * If that's not practical, he says, apply a paste of sand and seawater. Then scrape the tentacles off with a knife, plastic credit card, or other sharp instrument.
    * Or apply a paste of baking soda and seawater, he says. Scrape the tentacles off as above.

Treat the symptoms. Take care of itching and inflammation with specific medications, says Dr. Jacknowitz.

    * Relieve the itchy skin with antihistamines.
    * Reduce the swelling with hydrocortisone cream.
    * Take a pain reliever if pain persists.

Get a tetanus shot. Although saltwater will cleanse the sting site, it won't sterilize the wound, says Dr. Jacknowitz. So make sure your tetanus immunization is up-to-date.

Take panty hose to the beach.(!?) If you want to make sure jellyfish won't harm you, wear panty hose while you swim, says Dr. Luscombe. "It really helps."