Jellyfish stings

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A jellyfish has transparent body with long finger-like structures called as tentacles. There are stinging cells within these tentacles that can sting if you get to close to them. In some cases, these jellyfish stings can cause serious damage. If you love to spend a lot of time in the water while on vacation, it is important to be wary if jellyfishes are present. If you are not careful enough to inspect the water first, you end up stung by a jellyfish. The harmful jellyfish venom is present in certain species such as Portuguese man-of-war, Lion’s mane, sea nettle and sea wasp.


Depending on the jellyfish that stung an individual, the symptoms tend to vary. If an individual is stung by a Portuguese man-of-war, the following symptoms usually manifest:

jellyfish sting
A sting from a jellyfish can cause a headache.
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in the pulse rate
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain and spasms
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Pain in the legs or arms
  • Elevated red spot on the site stung
  • Weakness and numbness

Sea nettle

  • Muscle cramps accompanied with breathing difficulties
  • Mild skin rashes

Lion’s mane

  • Muscle cramps
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Burning sensation on skin and blistering in severe cases

Sea wasp

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diminished heart beat
  • Severe swelling and pain
  • Death of skin tissue

Home treatment for jellyfish stings

If an individual is stung by a jellyfish, it is important to seek immediate medical care. In case a Portuguese man-of-war or sea nettle delivered the sting, the initial first aid measure is to wash the area stung using salt water and protect the affected area if possible.  The area should be soaked in a solution comprised of vinegar and water for about 30 minutes so that the tentacles will be removed. Rinse the area and then soak again in a solution with 1/2 strength vinegar. Lastly, apply a pain relief or antihistamine cream.

Before calling for emergency assistance, you have to determine the following information:

  • Age, weight and condition of the individual
  • Name of jellyfish if possible
  • Time the individual was stung

Poison control should be contacted so that further instructions can be provided in case of a jellyfish sting. You can call in case you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention tips.

What to expect in the emergency room

If the sting results to severe allergic reactions, it is best to bring the individual to the emergency department at the nearest hospital. The medical team will measure and monitor the vital signs including the pulse, temperature, blood pressure and breathing. The symptoms are also treated immediately and the individual will receive breathing assistance, fluids via IV and an antivenin for sea wasp stings.

Stings by Portuguese man-of-war and sea nettle are rarely deadly but a sting from a sea wasp is lethal in just a matter of minutes.

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