How to treat a jellyfish sting

How to treat a jellyfish sting

It is another beautiful Keys day and you’ve decided to go out on the water.  You are snorkeling, diving or just taking a dip in the ocean when you suddenly experiencing a sharp, piercing pain.  JELLYFISH!!  Although you may not see them, you know when you’ve been hit.  There are many old wives tales when it comes to treating a jellyfish sting and if you’ve ever been stung you know you would try just about anything to make that awful irritation go away.

What NOT to do:

Pee on it. 

Use meat tenderizer.

Pour gas on it. 

Soak it in fresh water.

Assess the situation. Know when to call 9-1-1. If the sting covers a great deal of your body/genitals/eyes, or triggers an allergic reaction that causes difficulty in breathing or heart palpitations, seek help immediately.

It’s very likely you may have tentacles still attached, even if you can’t see them, and touching them will only encourage the tentacles to release more of the stinging chemical. Often a boat will shred a school of jellyfish, killing them, but even in a shredded state their stingers are still functional. This is how many people get stung, though they never saw the jellyfish that stung them. 

Helpful remedies:

  • Apply shaving cream. One of the best treatments for this type of sting is shaving cream. After you’ve been stung, the jellyfish stinging cells can continue to cause pain if you activate them.  When you apply shaving cream, the jellyfish cells release the painful stinging chemicals into the cream.  You then carefully scrape off the cream using something hard such a credit card. 
  • Rinse with vinegar to neutralize the sting.
  • Create a baking soda paste by mixing baking soda and a little water. Just enough water to create a thick paste. Slather area with the paste and let dry. The baking soda will draw the stinging chemical into the paste.

After you’ve removed the stinging cells, there are a couple of things you can try to reduce some of the pain and irritation.

  • Apply aloe vera gel. Typically used to treat sunburns, research shows it helps soothe and relieve pain associated with jellyfish stings as well.
  • Hot water and/or cold packs can help relieve pain. 

Remember to stay calm. If the above remedies do not help and/or you are experiencing extreme discomfort, seek out your local emergency room or urgent care for further treatment.

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