The discussion over how to treat jellyfish stings has been going on since people first started swimming in the oceans. The long list of jellyfish sting remedies have been disputed with outlandish claims about using baking soda, hot sand or even urine to alleviate pain. However, thanks to a recent article, we can finally rule out these myths.

Jellyfish stings create an intense, searing pain that causes itching, rash and welts. If jellyfish stings are left untreated, symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, numbness, tingling, lymph node swelling and muscle spasms. Severe reactions can cause coma or even death.

According to a collection of recent studies reviewed in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the topical painkiller lidocaine and hot water are the best remedies for jellyfish stings in North America and Hawaii. Portuguese man-of-war stings can be treated with vinegar, however this may increase pain and may cause even more venom discharge from other types of jellyfish. There has been no evidence found that meat tenderizer or urine can be used to treat jellyfish stings.

“This study is interesting because it tells a how to treat jellyfish stings in a different way than most dermatologists normally recommend,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger.

If you are stung by a jellyfish, carefully remove the venom sacks (nematocysts) from the skin with the edge of a credit card. Scrape the card across the skin to remove the sack. Do not use bare hands to remove the sack or the tentacles. Once the jellyfish has been completely removed, carefully wash the sting area with saltwater before applying hot water or lidocaine. Seek medical attention immediately.

“I like the thought of using hot water, but remember that this is hot TAP water and not saltwater,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger. “Lidocaine is also a good idea, but it is important to remember that it isn’t readily available and unlikely to be stocked at the lifeguard stand! If you want to be prepared, take some along with you on your trip to the beach and you could be a hero to others.”

Always be prepared and educated when you are vacationing somewhere unfamiliar. You never know when you’ll need to know how to treat jellyfish stings.

Have you ever been stung by a jellyfish? How did you treat it?

Posted Monday, June 25th, 2012 at 9:28 pm
Filed Under Category: Dermatology, Skin Care Myths
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