Science Questions

Sat, 17th Jun 2006

Part of the show Social Insects and Locust-Inspired Car Safety

Question

Mike in Utah asked:

There's a myth (or is it truth) that urine from a human can negate a jellyfish sting. Is that an urban legend?

Answer

I've been looking in to this but there doesn't seem to be a very clear answer as to whether or not urine does help with jellyfish stings. The idea is to try and reduce the pain, but also, if you have a tentacle stuck to you, to try and prevent any more of those nematocysts from firing. I was looking round and I couldn't find any scientific studies that were prepared to look at why urine might have an effect on this. It certainly is something of a traditional treatment and it's something you have access to if you don't have access to vinegar. Vinegar is a much more usual treatment for jellyfish stings and has been tested. There was a study reported in New Scientist a few years ago saying that they tested coca cola and four day old wine because they're very acidic. They can help reduce the pain and stop the firing of these nematocysts. We think it might be something to do with the vinegar dehydrating the nematocyst cells and stopping them being able to fire. But if you only have urine, it might work. Also, males have more sterile urine than females, so if you can ask a male to provide the necessary, then that's great.

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