Jellyfish are freeswimming marine animals with trailing tentacles, used as a method of defence, and to trap their prey. Humans through their marine activities can sometimes make contact with the jellyfish’s tentacles and receive a nasty sting. This can range from an itch to a life threatening allergic reaction. Ignoring first aid myths and applying a simple treatment protocol could help alleviate the symptoms of a sting.
There are more than 2000 types of jellyfish in the world's oceans, most being harmless but not all. Here are a few venomous varieties to look out for:
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish - Northern Atlantic, Arctic & Northern Pacific
Portuguese Man of War - Atlantic & Indian Ocean
Box Jellyfish - Tropical Indo Pacific (can spread to any warmer waters)
Irukandji Jellyfish - Northern Australia
Just Been Stung
Being stung by a jellyfish can cause the onset of panic and fear. Also the casualty can suffer with mild to excruciating pain across the affected area. It can help to offer reassurance to the casualty, and to check to see if a lifeguard is on duty nearby.
It is the tentacles on the jellyfish that can cause the most harm to humans when we encroach on their habitat. The Jellyfish’s tentacles have stinging cells (nematocysts) which can wrap around the limbs of a person, or slash across the face and other areas of the body. This can cause any of the below symptoms:
Intense stinging / burning pain
Skin welts (raised itchy rash)
Sometimes the jellyfish sting can be identified by the distinctive tentacle like imprints left on the skin.
The treatment protocol should be initiated quickly and be kept simple. Take control and avoid being distracted by other bystanders. Particularly regarding old wives tales such as urinating on the affected area. There are some simple steps you can take to help alleviate pain for the casualty:
Rinse the affected area thoroughly with seawater
Soak the affected area in hot water for 20-30 minutes (hot enough to just about be comfortable)
Use hot flannels or towels if it is not possible to soak the affected area e.g. the face
Offer reassurance to the casualty
Visit a minor injury unit if:
The pain is intense and will not go away
The casualty has been stung in the face or genitals
Visit A&E or dial 999 / 112 if the casualty displays any of the below symptoms: