How should you treat a jellyfish sting?

10 July 2018

Question

How should you treat a jellyfish sting?

Answer

Chris Smith asked GP Laurence Kemp for an antidote to this stinging question from Eric

Laurence - I’ll try to be quick on this one. There’s a lot of myths about jellyfish stings, the first thing I'd say is that the old myth of urinating on a jellyfish sting is absolutely false.

Chris - Really?

Laurence - Yes, it’s out. Urea as a compound may have a beneficial effect but your urine isn't going to be concentrated enough for you to really have any benefit. So don’t urinate on it. The best thing to do is if you've got some vinegar like we all take that to the beach regularly but if you put something acidic, like vinegar, on it then that will help to stop any tentacles from releasing further venom.

You can’t put freshwater on it either because the jellyfish and the matter sites within the tentacles are very sensitive to the osmotic pressure of the fluid around them. Actually putting freshwater on there will stimulate more venom release.

Chris - So you have to have someone who is really dehydrated to pee on you?

Laurence -  I think you’d have to be really dehydrated for the peeing, seriously dehydrated. The best thing is to apply something acidic, like vinegar, or you can actually buy jellyfish sting sprays that you can put on. Failing that, the best thing is to wash it with salt water and then after you’ve done that you need to try and remove the tentacles. Either with some tweezers or failing that get your credit card out, scrape it down the skin, to try and remove them off and then wash in hot water after that. That's the basic advice.


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