Our family recently took a trip to the Georgia coast. We were lucky enough to be able to spend a few days at the beach. We were unlucky enough to experience our first jellyfish. Not even thinking about the possibility of a jellyfish sting we were unprepared and uninformed. Here are the basics you need to know.
Jellyfish are found in all oceans. As the water temperature rises the jellyfish are found closer to shore. Late summer, warmer water more possibilities of jellyfish. Different types of jellyfish have different levels of toxicity. Most hurt but won’t kill you. Most people just have a contact wound with no other complications. But there are a few kinds of jellyfish that have such a high level of poison in the sting that they can be fatal. The Box Jellyfish of Australia has been known to cause death. If you see jellyfish in the water do not go in. If dead jellyfish are on the beach that means they are in close and again do not go in the water. Some beaches post warning signs or have colored flag signals to let you know if there are jellyfish present. Educate yourself about the warning system if you are lucky enough to be at a beach that has a system.
Jellyfish sting you when the current of the water accidently pushes their bodies into you. They are not purposely out to hurt people. Their tentacles contain their stinging structure and that is what latches on to you and deposits the poison. It hurts much like several bee stings. A jellyfish sting will look like a raised red rash. It will swell and be itchy. It will not spread to the surrounding area. You will only be marked where the tentacles came in contact with your body. The rash can last from a few days to a few weeks. In rare cases a person can have an allergic reaction, headaches, vomiting, muscle spasms, fever, chills, difficulty breathing. If they have these rare symptoms get to a doctor or treatment center right away.
How to treat a Jellyfish Sting:
- Immediately get out of the water.
- If there is part of the Jellyfish still stuck to you like a tentacle (DO NOT TOUCH IT) remove it with a stick or towel or something to protect you from getting stung again.
- Rinse the area with salt water (DO NOT USE FRESH WATER this makes everything worse).
- Apply white vinegar. Don’t rub. Pour the vinegar over the wounded area or soak a towel with vinegar and let it lay on the wound. I would keep the vinegar on for at least 15 minutes.
- Try to remain still. This stops the venom from continuing to be released into your body.
- Now that the vinegar has deactivated the venom. The best approach is to put some shaving cream on the area and scrape the sting with a safety razor or a credit card to pull all the stinger bits out. If you have no shaving cream available you can use sand or a shell to scrape away on the stings site this will help remove the stinger bits.
- Go ahead and take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain. You can also take an antihistamine for the itching.
Now that you know what to expect, as you are heading to the beach put a bottle of white vinegar in your beach bag next to your suntan lotion. I know my family will never go the beach without it.