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How to treat and prevent jellyfish stings - a personal
I'm not a jellyfish connoisseur (if that word can be applied) or fancier by
any means, but I have been stung by jellyfish enough times to not want to get
stung again. It really only takes once to motivate me to learn how to
handle these seemingly harmless, but really painful creatures. My first
sting was during a recent visit to
North Padre Island for some windsurfing. I had taken @Mousethedog
and @Beezthedog for a little wading
in the water. Not more than 30 seconds upon entering the water, I felt
something like a fire ant bite on my left ankle. Being
allergic to fire ants, I went into high cortisol mode looking for the
offender. When no offender was found on my legs, I saw something white and
cloudy in the water. It was an evil jellyfish who decided that my flesh
was a great place to fire some stingers. I immediately got the dogs out of
the water, and proceeded to seek treatment.
The stings feel different to different people, and it might also differ my
species of jellyfish. Given the location and layman's assessment of the
jellyfish, I was most likely stung by
sea nettle. Some people feel itchy around the stings. Some people
think it feels like pin pricks. My pain after the initial stings felt like
acid burns. Or it could also be described as someone jabbing me repeatedly
with syringes filled with acid. The pain would also come in waves for hours, and almost
completely subsided within 12 hours or so. People who are allergic to
other types of venom supposedly react more to jellyfish stings, but I had
or anaphylaxis reactions. I only had localized pain. Learn from
my pain, because it sure wasn't fun.
Long tentacles wrapped around my legs even after using the
Safe Sea lotion.
Falling off a surfboard onto jellyfish just isn't as glamorous as it seems.
The stings are raised and swollen.
You can see the rash developing where I was stung.
- Rub it! I rubbed my sting areas at first thinking that it fire ants.
It was not fire ants, and the rubbing only caused the stingers (also called
nematocysts) to activate even more! Don't touch the sting spots.
- Get into water before checking for jellyfish or sharks for that matter.
I had been going to North Padre Island for nearly three years, and I had
never seen jellyfish there before. Until today of course. You
can bet that I'll be checking the water for those pesky critters each
and every time I get to the island.
- Rinse off with warm salt water if you can. The longer you
rinse the better. You want to try to rinse those little stingers off.
Rinsing with fresh water might cause the stingers to re-fire.
- Soak or spray the area with vinegar. Luckily, I happened to
have a spray bottle of vinegar in the car for correcting the dogs. I
think this helped neutralize the stingers, but some people complained that
it still didn't provide immediate relief. The vinegar isn't supposed
to provide pain relief, but it is supposed to stop the stingers from
re-firing. I found this to be the most effect method of treatment for
- Once dry, apply some
Jellyfish Squish. This had zero effect on me when I was
still wet. Once I was dry, it gave me marginal relief.
The active ingredient in this spray is 4% lidocaine. It doesn't
prevent re-fire of the stingers, but it is supposed to numb you so you don't
feel the stings. I thought it was pretty useless at $10 for 4 ounces.
I think a shot of tequila would have been cheaper and more effective.
- Wear a wet suit. Many websites recommend wearing a
wet suit as protection against the jellyfish, but be forewarned.
Jellyfish can still get in between the crevices and openings of the wet
suit, and it doesn't protect your face. On the days I was at the
beach, many people found wet suits to be very effective. Just be
careful when removing the wetsuit as stingers may be on the outside.
- Lather up with Safe Sea 30
minutes prior to entering the water. This preventative lotion
seemed to have marginal preventative power against the jellyfish.
Meaning, if I was standing in the water, jellyfish would not hang around me.
However, if I walk, swim, or fall into a jellyfish, the jellyfish aren't
going to dart away. In fact, they are still going to sting me. I
found that out the hard way. I would use this lotion if I was just
wading around in the water. However, if I'm doing something at higher
speeds, this lotion is going to be a useless preventative. In the
future, I will either wear a wet suit or avoid the water completely.