How should you relieve jellyfish stings?

If you head to the beach this summer, you may come across jellyfish, gelatinous sea creatures that look like a bell with tentacles. While their appearance may be distasteful to some, their sting is painful to all. There are many popular theories as to the best way to treat them, but it seems that hot water and topical painkillers may be your best bet – in North America, at least.

If you head to the beach this summer, you may come across jellyfish, gelatinous sea creatures that look like a bell with tentacles. While their appearance may be distasteful to some, their sting is painful to all. There are many popular theories as to the best way to treat them, but it seems that hot water and topical painkillers may be your best bet – with the North American jellyfish, at least.

When your skin comes into contact with a jellyfish tentacle, venom sacs are left behind and can cause pain to persist long after the initial contact with the jellyfish. It’s important to remove those sacs from your skin, to stop the release of venom. As with a wasp sting, however, be careful not to crush the sacs, otherwise they will release their venom. One way to remove them is to use the edge of a credit card, or another object with a straight and rigid edge, to scrape the sacs off the skin. A jellyfish may sometimes even leave tentacles stuck to your skin. Don’t use your bare hands to remove them! Protect your skin by using a towel, or ideally gloves.

To relieve the burning sensation, the recommendation is to rinse the skin with hot water. The heat inactivates the jellyfish venom, which eases the pain. If you don’t have access to hot water, removing the venom sacs from your skin and washing the area with saltwater might help.

Once the skin has been cleaned, you can apply a lidocaine-based cream to the skin to soothe the discomfort. If you have any questions, a pharmacist is a great resource to help you!

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