How to Treat Jellyfish Stings: First Aid Treatment

Stings from jellyfish are always a risk when in the open water. There are many varieties of jellyfish, and they range from completely harmless to potentially deadly. The box jellyfish is considered one of the most dangerous sea creatures in the world, though luckily these jellyfish are very rare in the waters around the United States. You can take steps to protect yourself from jellyfish stings by wearing a protective wetsuit and following local warning signs. Lifeguards may close beaches and swimming areas to protect people when a large swarm of jellyfish appears.

Jellyfish stings can be intensely painful, and the first aid treatment focuses on breaking down the jellyfish venom to reduce the pain and inflammation. You also need to be vigilant for signs of a severe reaction to the sting. Although it's a rare possibility, jellyfish stings can be rapidly fatal, especially when the victim has an allergy to jellyfish venom. If the victim shows signs of a severe reaction, you'll need to act quickly to summon emergency medical help and be prepared to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if she or he stops breathing.

Signs and Symptoms of a Jellyfish Sting

Signs of a jellyfish sting causing local irritation include:

◾ Pain

◾ Swelling

◾ Red marks on the skin

◾ Jellyfish tentacles stuck to the skin

Signs of a major reaction to a jellyfish sting include:

◾ Difficulty in breathing

◾ Reduced level of consciousness

◾ Seizures

◾ Vomiting

First Aid Treatment for a Jellyfish Sting

1. Remove the victim from the water as soon as possible while considering your own safety.

2. Call EMS or seek assistance from lifeguards if the victim displays any signs of a severe reaction or you are concerned that the victim is deteriorating.

3. Wear gloves and use tweezers to remove any tentacles still stuck to the skin.

4. Wash the area with vinegar as soon as possible. There is some evidence that vinegar will deactivate the stinging cells of the jellyfish. If vinegar is not available, use seawater, although it is much less effective.

5. Bathe the area in hot water (as hot as tolerated) for at least ten to twenty minutes or until the pain has subsided. Be careful not to cause burns to the victim.

6. Seek medical advice if the symptoms do not improve or the pain is not controllable with simple painkillers.

Don't Use Urine

Urinating on a jellyfish sting is a common first aid myth. There is no evidence that urine helps with the pain or swelling from a jellyfish sting. In fact, in some cases the urine may react with the jellyfish cells and worsen the symptoms from a sting.