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How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting Effectively

25th July, 2022, in Travel Advice & Guides

Jellyfish can strike an element of fear into those who regularly venture into the sea. There is the worry of being stung, the concern of how to deal with the sting and the scare of how severe the sting may be.

Jellyfish are found in every ocean and whilst some are totally harmless, others can inflict severe pain and lead to a variety of symptoms.

Treating the stings correctly can be the difference between simple home remedies or an urgent hospital visit.

What does a jellyfish sting look like?

You may be swimming in the sea an unaware of the presence of jellyfish, but once stung you, you will know about it. Figuring out what has caused the underwater pain may be harder to figure out. After all, you may not be able to see under the water particular clearly. A reliable way to tell what has stung or bitten you is to look at the mark it leaves.

A jellyfish sting has a distinctive look to it. You will see a print-like mark of the tentacle in the area you were stung. It may swell slightly, and could leave track marks on the skin that show up red, brown or purple.

They can often be mistaken for stings from other sea creatures such as blue bottles, Puffer fish, Sea anemones or Portuguese man o’ war.

What are the symptoms of a jellyfish sting?

Whilst most jellyfish stings cause nothing more than a little discomfort, others can lead to more severe problems and even require hospital treatment. As an example of how common they are, In Chesapeake Bay in North America, over half a million people are stung by jellyfish annually.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Burning or stinging sensation on your skin
  • A tingling or numbness where the sting occurred.
  • The skin in the affected area turning red or purple

If the sting is more severe, the symptoms could include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fits or seizures
  • Chest pains
  • Severe bleeding

If any of the above symptoms are being felt following a sting, you should seek medical help immediately.

How severe the symptoms are will depend on the type of jellyfish and how much of your skin is affected. This may not be evident at first, so treat it seriously from the outset.

How to treat a jellyfish sting

Before applying any kind of treatment, you should remove visible tentacles. You can do this with fine tweezers. Remove them carefully but do not rub them off as you may aggravate the skin further.

Rinse the infected area with seawater, not freshwater, and check again if there are more tentacles to remove. Next, soak the infected area for at least 30 minutes in very warm water. If you are unable to soak the area, then apply hot flannels or towels instead.

Certain painkillers are worth using if the pain is severe. Ibuprofen and paracetamol will work well. If it turns out the sting has given you an allergic reaction, antihistamine creams can help to bring the pain down.

When painkillers do not do the job and you know that you have been stung by a more dangerous type of jellyfish, you can be given certain medications only available from a hospital.

Does urine help jellyfish stings?

This long-fabled myth is actually not true. With a sting from a jellyfish, there are certain things that you should absolutely not do. At no time should you treat a jellyfish sting by:

  • Using vinegar
  • Using urine
  • Applying ice packs or cold packs
  • Covering or closing the wound
  • Touching the tentacles with bare hands

What are the best ways to avoid jellyfish stings?

Many beaches will indicate whether there are likely to be dangerous creatures in the water so, always look for signs. It would also be worth considering wearing a wetsuit, especially during spring or summer. In addition, you can wear waterproof shoes when walking in shallower areas. The final piece of advice to help avoid jellyfish stings is perhaps the most obvious – do not touch them!

Wherever you plan to travel on a holiday this year, or next, keep safe when in the sea. If heading abroad, check out our comprehensive car hire directory, so you can pick up a car the moment you arrive and get on with enjoying your trip. Don’t forget your car insurance excess cover either. Without it, you could find yourself stung by costly fees that add more pain to the expense of your time away.

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