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It must first be remembered that most jellyfish found in North America and Europe are harmless, with the exception of allergic people. Species that live in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region can be deadly.
Jellyfish sting thanks to its tentacles covered with stinging capsules: nematocysts. When a bather brushes on tentacles, these same millions of nematocysts implant themselves in his skin and then release their venom. And that’s whether the jellyfish is in the water or stranded on the sand!
The sting is very rapid and causes severe and immediate pain, sometimes accompanied by tingling or numbness. Also, red-purple erythema reproduces the shape of the tentacles appears within hours of contact.
pee on the wound
However, the care to be taken if such a sting occurs is the subject of many rumors on the Internet. One of them, was published through an episode of the TV series friends In 1997, it consists of urinating on the wound.
The idea is that the urine contains ammonia, which neutralizes the pain. But this is wrong: A team from the Flemish Maritime Institute, in Belgium, analyzed more than 80 studies on the treatments to be applied in case of jellyfish stings. She concluded that urine could spur stinging cells that haven’t yet released their venom, which could increase pain.
Vinegar is also suggested, but the results obtained are mixed. The same Belgian researchers found that applying vinegar to the skin for 30 seconds is effective for stings of some species of jellyfish, but in other cases it can make the situation worse by releasing venom from the nematocysts. Already in 2012, a Review of studies on the topic published in Annals of emergency medicine It has been suggested that vinegar causes exacerbation of pain or secretion of nematocysts in the majority of species.
So treatment should be ruled out…unless you are a jellyfish specialist who is able to identify the type that just sting you!
Sea water, hot water and ice
Other treatments that are widely advertised on the Internet include the use of fresh water, sea water, and ice. Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa reviewed 2,000 studies to decide between hot water and ice. According to their results Published in 2016 in the magazine toxinshot water should be applied to the wound, without boiling – between 45 and 50 ° C – for 20 minutes to “neutralize” the venom of the jellyfish.
They also found that oral analgesics, seawater, and a solution of baking soda and seawater had “more positive than negative effects” against nematocyst suppression and pain relief.
A review of other literature, published in 2012, for its part, concluded that hot water and lidocaine appear to be generally beneficial in reducing pain. Because these treatments are difficult to access on the beach, the authors suggested removing the filamentous cysts (with tweezers or with a piece of cardboard after covering it with sand), and then washing the wound with saline.
In the case of a jellyfish sting, you do not have to humble yourself and ask a friend to urinate on your wound. Just remove any irritated threads with tweezers, then rinse the irritated area with salt water. You can then submerge the sting in hot water for about twenty minutes.