How to care for a jellyfish sting

Fact Checked

Anyone is at risk for a jellyfish sting when spending time in the beach. The tentacles of jellyfish have stinging cells that cause injury to humans and animals and the severity depends on the type of jellyfish the person comes in contact with.

Once a jellyfish sting occurs, they release thousands of tiny barbs that hook into the skin and release venom. The venom causes slight discomfort and a painful rash. Sometimes, the venom of jellyfish can affect the entire body.

Symptoms of jellyfish sting

  • Development of a reddened and irritated skin rash at the affected area.
  • Blistering of the area
  • Pain and swelling
  • Burning and stinging sensations can be felt
    Jellyfish sting

    Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or wheezing with chest discomfort can occur after a jellyfish sting.

  • Cramping of muscles that persists for several hours
  • Digestive issues such as vomiting and nausea
  • Fever and sweating profusely
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or wheezing with chest discomfort
  • Slow heart rate or pulse with chest pain
  • Becoming weak, lightheaded or dizzy and even feeling faint or loses consciousness collapse
  • Temporary paralysis in severe cases

Treatment

  • Get out of the water as soon as possible.
  • Avoid touching the sting site or touching it with your hands. There is a possibility that the tentacles are still sticking on the skin.
  • Soak the tentacles using vinegar at least 30 seconds to inactivate the stinging cells.
  • Avoid moving around while removing the tentacles to prevent the spread of venom to other parts of the body.
  • Use a knife, tweezers or clean sticks to remove the tentacles filled with venom. Avoid rubbing or scraping the tentacles to prevent the spread of the venom.
  • Throw away materials that came in direct contact with the jellyfish.
  • Take the prescribed over-the-counter pain medications such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to lessen the pain.
  • Immerse the affected area in hot water that the individual can tolerate to relieve the pain.
  • Clean the affected area with warm water at least 3 times every day and apply the prescribed antibiotic. Cover it with bandage and wrap using gauze.
  • Use over-the-counter antihistamine pills or topical cream that contains diphenhydramine or calamine to lessen the itchiness and irritation.

Tips

  • When swimming, observe the warning signs on the beach.
  • When swimming, make sure that a lifeguard is nearby.
  • Avoid touching the jellyfish even if they are already dead since their tentacles can still sting.
  • Wear a wetsuit or waterproof footwear when swimming or walking in shallow water to disturb and scare off any sea creatures within the area.

Disclaimer / More Information

The material posted on this page on a jellyfish sting is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage a jellyfish sting with proper wound care by taking a first aid and CPR class with one of our training providers.

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  • All cprhcp.ca content is reviewed by a medical professional and / sourced to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

  • We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable websites, academic research institutions and medical articles.

  • If you feel that any of our content is inaccurate, out-of-date, or otherwise questionable, please contact us through our contact us page.