Randy Belham
Randy Belham

Feb 21. 2 mins

Don’t Let A Jellyfish Sting Ruin Your Dive Vacation

Jellyfish are creatures you may encounter when swimming in the ocean. They look like a glob of Jello floating in the water, with a mass of strings hanging beneath it. They may be transparent or colorful. Although they are not aggressive, they respond to contact with human beings with their defensive “sting” that can be uncomfortable or even dangerous for the people involved.

Here are some facts about jellyfish and their stings that can take the mystery out of this extraordinary creature:

Understanding Jellyfish

Because jellyfish tend to like the warm waters of tropical and vacation destinations, they often have unwanted encounters with humans who are swimming in the surf. Their “stingers” come from the jellyfish’s tentacles that can release thousands of tiny harpoons, called “nematocysts,” which contain toxins that cause a reaction when in contact with anything that threatens it.

What Does A Sting Feel Like?

Different kinds of jellyfish can produce different types of stings. Generally, people describe a feeling like touching a piece of cloth in the water, followed by a burning or stinging sensation in an area of the body, usually the legs or feet. Experts recommend that you not panic if you feel a sting. Simply get out of the water as calmly as possible. This measure will help to prevent the jellyfish releasing more nematocysts.

What Are the Effects of A Jellyfish Sting?

A sting can leave a red rash in the shape of the tentacle or can be spread over a wider area. The sting can have a burning or stinging sensation and can be itchy for some time afterward or may feel numb for a period of time. Most jellyfish stings are not serious health threats, but stings from some jellyfish that are found in Australia, the Philippines and Pacific islands can be life threatening.

What Should I Do To Relieve A Jellyfish Sting?

  • Remove the stingers from the tentacles by scraping the affected area with the edge of an ID or credit card.
  • Do not rinse the areas with fresh water, which can activate the stingers left behind in the skin. Rinse with vinegar or apply a baking soda paste. Leave on for 30 seconds.

  • Take a hot shower or apply ice packs.
  • Apply calamine lotion.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

Can A Jellyfish Sting Be Dangerous?

Some people may have an allergic reaction to a jellyfish sting. They may experience any of the following symptoms and should get medical help immediately:

  • Swollen lips and tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A rash over a large area of the body
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Problems with heart rate or chest pain

How Long Does the Discomfort Last?

Discomfort from a sting can generally only lasts a day or two. However, delayed reactions can occur for days or even weeks after a sting.

Preventing Jellyfish Stings

You can purchase sunscreens that contain jellyfish repellent or jellyfish repellents that are sold as a separate product. These items can help to prevent jellyfish from giving you a painful sting while you are enjoying the water.

Before getting into the water, it’s always a good idea to check for the jellyfish that might be present. If you are staying at a hotel on the beach, the front desk will be able to provide information on surf conditions and potential dangers in the water.


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