How to treat and prevent jellyfish stings – a personal experience.
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 severely 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 no systemic 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 me.
- 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.