in: Health, Health & Fitness, Visual Guides

• Last updated: June 1, 2021

How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting

How to treat a jellyfish sting illustration.

Perhaps the most harmless looking creature on the planet, jellyfish make up for their puffy appearance and cloud-like demeanor with a fierce arsenal of pain-inducing, sometimes fatally poisonous, stingers. Called nematocysts, the sharp barbs found along jellyfish tentacles bury into their target to cause painful reactions that can range from mildly irritating to deadly. If you’re stung by a jellyfish, ignore the urge to urinate on it because you saw it on a TV show. Treat your sting correctly with these simple steps.   

  1. Rinse the affected area with seawater to help get rid of the loose stringers. Avoid freshwater which may irritate the wound by activating additional nematocysts.
  2. Carefully scrape remaining stingers out of your skin using an ID or credit card.
  3. Apply plain vinegar to the site or a paste of baking soda and seawater which may deactivate nematocysts and reduce the reaction.
  4. Rinse the area under hot water not to exceed 113 degrees F or apply ice packs. Choose the method that seems to offer you the most relief.
  5. Apply calamine lotion and take a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce swelling and irritation.
  6. Rest and monitor the site. See a doctor if a rash develops or you start to have difficulty breathing.

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Illustration by Ted Slampyak 

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