Sun, Sand, Stings: Treating Jellyfish Stings

As beach weather is drawing near, I wanted to address how to care for yourself if you become entangled with a jellyfish.

Jellyfish are often found floating near the top of the water, especially during dusk and dawn (low light times).  A sting can result in red welts or a rash and a stinging, burning pain.  Occasionally patients also report itching at the site.

Although jellyfish stings can be painful, most cases can be taken care of at home.

A recent journal reviewed several studies on the treatment of jellyfish stings (including the application of vinegar, hot water, ice, seawater, meat tenderizer or over-the-counter jellyfish sting remedies).  Hot water appears to be the most effective in reducing pain after a jellyfish sting.  This is because the venom from the sting breaks down with heat. Benadryl will help with itching.

Two common myths are that rubbing sand onto the wound or urinating on the wound will help. Do not do this. You will cause more harm than good.

Just like any other venom, rarely severe reactions (difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, irregular heartbeats or death) can occur. If you are having worsening symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Susan Szulc, MD

About Dr. Susan Szulc
Susan V. Szulc, MD, is a board-certified internist with Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach. She received her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dr. Szulc earned her medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, Va., where she also completed a residency in internal medicine. Dr. Szulc is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and American Medical Women’s Association. Dr. Szulc’s special interests include palliative care and hypertension.

+Read Dr. Szulc’s articles on health and wellness topics!

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