The Truth About Jellyfish Stings… And the Kraken

There you are, happily splashing around in the ocean, when you notice something has set your leg on fire. As you frantically run back to the safety of the tourist-infested beach and away from the Kraken you must have angered in your fantastic two-piece, you realize that you’ve been stung by a jellyfish. So what do you do?

Despite what Friends may have taught you, having a close friend urinate on your sting may not actually help. In fact, you may be lucky to only be suffering a lightning-burn sensation on your leg! Dr. Nicholas Ward of the University of California- San Diego recently said in a press release that certain treatments, such as urination, may “actually make the pain worse with certain species of jellyfish.”

Studying species of jellyfish may not be your hobby, however; how do you know how to proceed into the blissful land of relief when everything television has taught you is wrong?’


Unfortunately, there are very few solid answers on jellyfish-sting relief. Most is speculation based on a variety of different types of jellyfish: it may be too late now, but researching the area you plan to visit to discover what dangers are there is definitely recommended. While you’re standing on the beach in pain, however, it’s a different story. We’ve taken the most wide-spread theories on the sweet idea of jellyfish relief, and compiled them for you:

  1. First, if you don’t know the type of jellyfish, you may do a teensy bit of research about the area and what types are common. Likewise, you’ll need to contact the closest medical professional, especially if you’re symptoms begin to exceed minor stinging. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fever, and require immediate medical attention.

If your beach does not have a lifeguard or someone prepared to provide treatment, you’ll need to call an ambulance. Most stings in North America can be easily treated on the beach and will only be severe with allergic reactions; other places, such as Australia, however, have deadlier jellyfish that have required beaches with antivenom on-hand. Crikey!

  1. If your symptoms don’t exceed the typical burn and irritated sensations, grab some saltwater to wash the area. Whatever you do, avoid freshwater—it can actually make the burn worse. Saltwater works effectively because it doesn’t affect the balance of solutes to set off the stinging sensation. It’s also important to remove any stingers gently—such as with the edge of a credit card.

Be prepared for a little discomfort—while washing the area and removing the stingers will help, pain can last for up to twenty-four hours following a sting. Typically, the pain peaks within the first five minutes of being stung, and slowly dissipates. If home treatment doesn’t provide much relief and symptoms start to worsen, you’ll want to visit a medical professional.

Other treatment options are speculated: hot water, vinegar, meat tenderizer, and baking soda are just a few. Treatment using these methods have not been proven or disproven to help, as it depends largely on the species of jellyfish. Why urinate on yourself if you don’t have to? Leave it up to time to heal your sting, and while you’re waiting for the pain to subside, think of a really cool story to tell your friends about your escape from the vicious man-eating Kraken.

Courtney Merz

Courtney enjoys writing about health issues in her spare time, along with painting and reading.

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