Jellyfish can be found in most coastal waters of the U.S. Fortunately, most jellyfish that people will encounter in the U.S. can cause symptomatic and problematic skin irritation but not the severe, potentially life-threatening consequences seen in other parts of the globe. Dr. Michael Boniface, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine specialist, has guidance on what to do if you are stung by a jellyfish.
Catching a few sunrays and beach waves are a great way to spend the day. An encounter with a jellyfish can change a carefree day to an irritating and painful one.
“Jellyfish stings actually result from hundreds of tiny little nematocysts that get adhered to your skin from their tentacles. Once these adhere to your skin, they can continually pump toxin through your skin into the subcutaneous tissue,” says Dr. Boniface.
Dr. Michael Boniface says that you should never pick up a dead jellyfish. If you see one, avoid one.
“Don’t ever pick up a dead jellyfish from the beach because it still can potentially be harmful.”
But if you do get stung, there are three important steps.
“The very first thing to do is gently remove the tentacles if they are still attached.”
No. 2: Remove the nematocysts that are in your skin.
“Remove them with a firm piece of plastic. Something like a credit card would work.”
And, third, immerse the sting in warm water, and avoid cold.
“We know that cold water, which is fresh, such as the showers at beaches, can encourage those nematocysts to pump a little more toxin into your skin.”
What’s the biggest rule of advice when it comes to jellyfish and other marine creatures that can be potentially harmful?
“If you see them, don’t touch them.”
And, Dr. Boniface says, avoid common myths.
“I’ve heard people say urinate on the jellyfish sting; pour ammonia; pour cold, fresh water; and, really, you want to avoid all of these interventions.”