What’s Lurking Beneath The Waves?
People often seek ocean vacations to escape their winter woes. Ocean dangers do exist, especially when daring people venture into the ocean on their own.
Sharks are probably the first threat people think of, especially since the movie “Jaws” was released. Although highly-publicized, shark attacks are relatively rare.
Other dangers involve currents such as rip tides and undertows. Proper instruction and flotation devices can assist one in surviving unpredictable ocean currents.
There is one threat that most ocean visitors are at a total loss to deal with: jellyfish.
What’s So Bad About Jellyfish?
Jellyfish are marine invertebrates having a bell-shaped, jelly-like substance enclosing their internal structure. Most species have tentacles covered with stinging cells that can stun or kill other ocean life. Most jellyfish use this stinging defense to catch prey or to defend themselves.
Most jellyfish are not very dangerous to humans, but a few are highly toxic. A recently discovered Australian species is suspected of causing two deaths there.
You may be swimming with jellyfish and never even know it. Many are tiny with unnoticeable stings. However, if you ever get caught in the stinging tentacles of a larger jellyfish, panic is likely, as this author can attest.
What To Do If Stung By A Jellyfish
Try not to panic! Thrashing will only increase the amount of stings you will receive. Next, notify someone immediately who can help you get out of the water. If you are stung by a rare and toxic jellyfish, drowning is possible, so get to the beach or on board a boat.
Seek a doctor’s assistance immediately! Most people won’t even know what happened to them. Only trained medical help can properly evaluate the severity of the stings and the appropriate treatment.
Most people will not seek medical help. Instead, they rely on home remedies for jellyfish stings seen on television or told to them by locals. It is a mystery why sting victims don’t seek immediate medical assistance.
If you were bitten by a snake, would you wait and see what happens? Of course not – you would go to the emergency room as fast as possible! Stings or bites from any sea creature, including jellyfish, sea urchins, rays and others, should be considered the same as a snake bite and treated accordingly.
Jellyfish sting home remedies usually involve the application of human urine, a solution of meat tenderizer, or fresh water to the site of the stings.
Some of these home remedies are wrong, and will make the situation worse.
Why Most Home Remedies For Jellyfish Stings Are Wrong
The jellyfish evolved in the ocean, so it’s stinging defenses are optimized for use in salt water. The use of fresh water will increase the venom injection of any stingers still stuck in the victim!
Likewise, massaging the sting area, or using alcohol, spirits, ammonia, or urine will also encourage the release of venom.
The mythical urine cure is probably the most misunderstood, yet is likely the most well-known. It was popularized on the television comedy “Friends” in the episode “The One With the Jellyfish.”
How To Deactivate Jellyfish Sting Venom
If you can’t get to a doctor, the first step in properly treating jellyfish stings is to deactivate the stinging cells still stuck in the victim. The following deactivation solutions may be used:
* A 5% percent acetic acid solution (available commercially as white vinegar) is the preferred method.
* Solutions of meat tenderizer, or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) will neutralize any stingers that have not yet released their poison. Meat tenderizer should not be left on the skin for more than 15 minutes.
* None of these substances should be used in the eyes. In the case of stings on or near the eyes, dip a towel in the deactivating solution and dab it around the eyes, but not directly into open eyes.
* Salt water can be used if none of the above products are available.
Removing Jellyfish Stingers
After the stingers are deactivated, persons with protective clothes and gloves should carefully remove any tentacles from the victim.
Any remaining embedded stingers should then be removed. This can be done by applying shaving cream to the affected area. Carefully scrape the sting area with a sharp surface, such as a razor, a knife blade, or even a sharp plastic edge such as a credit card.
Mild skin irritation can be soothed with the use of over-the-counter antihistamines containing diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl ™).
These Treatments Are Not Substitutes For A Doctor
Always see a doctor if you are stung or bitten by a jellyfish or any other sea creature. These jellyfish sting home remedies are not meant to replace a doctor’s expertise. You may wish to begin applying the proper care as first aid while waiting for the ambulance. If you do, tell the paramedics and doctor what steps you have taken.
But whatever you do, please don’t urinate on your jellyfish-stung friend. Although it makes for a funny story later, it will make your friend’s pain – and humiliation – worse