How To Treat A Jellyfish Sting

Jellyfish are very prevalent during the summer months in waters surrounding the UK and Ireland and can occasionally appear in very large numbers at popular beaches, leading to swimmers being stung.  So how do you treat a jellyfish sting properly?

 

Moon Jellyfish on the Beach

Moon Jellyfish Image courtesy of Ecomare/Sytske Dijksen – Ecomare, CC BY-SA 4.0,

In the UK, we typically have two types of Jellyfish: Moon Jellyfish which are easily identified by their translucent appearance and 4 purple rings.  These do not sting although may still cause irritation so shouldn’t be handled.

 

Large Lions Mane Jellyfish

Lions Mane Jellyfish photo courtesy of Achill Island Coastguard Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish however can cause severe irritation and stinging. The larger more mature jellyfish may have thousands of tentacles that are several metres long, causing multiple stings over a large area of the body, which can be very painful.

How to treat a jellyfish sting:

  1. First remove the sting.  It is usually easiest to scrape the sting away with a stick.  The stings can still cause irritation even after they are detached from the jellyfish itself – so take care not to touch the stick afterwards.
  2. Then rinse the affected area with sea water to wash away any residual stings.
  3. Heat can help to reduce the pain, so immersing the affected area in warm water (more than 45degC) as soon as possible can be a good idea, or applying a heat pack until the pain subsides.
  4. Some organisations also advise rinsing with vinegar if possible, and this certainly won’t do any harm if you have any to hand.

Of course, if the stinging is severe, pain is not subsiding, or there are any other symptoms, call the emergency services as soon as possible – taking a photo of the jellyfish if possible can help to identify it.  Occasionally more harmful jellyfish are found in UK waters having been brought in on ocean currents, however the treatment is the same.

Lastly, contrary to popular belief (thanks to the TV series Friends), do not urinate on a jellyfish sting, it won’t help!

About The Author

Tom Durham

Tom has 10 years of experience as a first aid trainer / assessor and over 20 years experience of outdoor sports instruction and coaching internationally. Prior to becoming a founder of the First Aid Training Co-operative, Tom grew a successful business delivering predominantly outdoor / remote first aid courses across Scotland, using his experience to help others in the outdoor industry improve their skills. Tom is a graduate of the Rural Leadership Programme and also runs a mountain bike trail design consultancy. He continues to work internationally, dividing his time between Scotland and the Italian Alps.