Jellyfish Stings: What you can do if you get one

jellyfishes in the water

I don’t know about you, but I think getting stung by a jellyfish is probably one of the worst things that can happen to us humans. And, what’s the worst part about it? Getting stung by one is a lot more common than you’d think it is, for sure.

It’s okay, there is some good news regarding the matter: Jellyfish stings are very easy to treat, and they are hardly ever life-threatening, phew! As a matter of fact, most jellyfish stings have you experiencing the most pain within the first five minutes. After that, the pain tends to subside minute by minute. And, the pain should never last more than 24 hours.

So, if you do get stung by a jellyfish this summer, I want you to be prepared and to know what to do, and what not to do, in the situation. Here we go!

Man, get out the water!

Yes, I meant to say it like that; It just sounds funnier than saying, “Get out of the water.”

Anyways, you should really get out of the water. You want to do everything in your power to get on land and avoid another jellyfish sting from happening.

However, DO NOT rinse off the sting area with drinking water.

Bad, bad idea. Doing this can actually increase your pain, believe it or not.

When you get stung by a jellyfish, nematocysts begin to roam the cells in your body where the sting took place. Rinsing the sting area off with drinking water actually allows the nematocysts to release even more venom into your cells, therefore increasing the pain.

Instead, rinse the area with salt water. Do yourself a favor; Don’t touch the area with your bare hands. Please.

Rumor has it: Pee on the sting. Actually, don’t pee on the sting.

This does absolutely nothing. It’s just a rumor. I swear. The worst part is, we don’t know who started the myth. Unfortunately, those of you out there that are lovers of the show Friends may think otherwise, considering Chandler pees on Monica in an episode and it happens to kind of heal the area.

Believe me when I say, it IS a myth. Even medical professionals claim it is.

vinegar first aid for jellyfish sting on the beachInstead of urine, use vinegar.

You may or may not have heard this one before, but use vinegar. Many doctors today recommend using vinegar, or even acetic acid, to reduce the pain and swelling. The pain should go away almost instantly.

If you have shaving cream, you might want to try putting it on the area.

This may sound like a crazy myth, but it’s not.

When vinegar isn’t handy, allow shaving cream to come to the rescue.

Shaving cream actually makes the nematocysts stay together, therefore not allowing them to rupture in your cells (this is how they cause so much pain). Then, once the pain subsides, just wipe the shaving cream off and you should be A-OK.

Applying heat will get the job done right.

If there are any remaining tentacles, medical professionals have suggested removing them with a sort of “blunt object.” After this is done, they say to continue rinsing the area with salt water, not drinking water. Finally, it is recommended to put something hot on the spot where the sting initiated. For example, a heat pack or an exceptionally grand amount of hot water should be applied to the surface. Be sure to make it as hot as the person can tolerate. Do this for around 20 minutes, or for as long as it takes for the pain to go away.

If symptoms get worse…

Most of the time, if you use the tactics listed above, you should feel relief from pain sooner rather than later.

However, if the symptoms do get worse, go seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Most jellyfish stings produce symptoms of mild to moderate pain, irritation, uneasy sensations, and burning feelings. If the jellyfish sting produces symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, trouble walking, headaches, or seizures, seek medical attention at your nearest hospital.

After the pain subsides…

Once the pain is treated, and the inflammation has gone down, go to your local drug store. Buy hydrocortisone cream or any oral antihistamine just to be safe. If there is any itching or swelling left over, these items should help speed up the healing process.

If the sting is not very bad…

jellyfish washed ashore next to man's footSometimes, the jellyfish doesn’t have the chance to fully get into you. And, even still, sometimes you get lucky, and the jellyfish sting happens to not be so bad. If that’s the case, medical professionals recommend for people to apply ice packs to the area. In addition, over-the-counter pain killers may be used, or antihistamines can be another option of relief.

If there happens to be an open sore, be sure to clean it at least three times a day. Apply antibiotic ointment if necessary, and place a bandage over the area if you’re leaving the house.


If you have a jellyfish sting, please be sure to not do the following:

  • Scrape or claw stingers out with fingers and/or nails
  • Rinse using your own, or someone else’s urine (remember, it’s a myth!)
  • Rinse with fresh and/or drinking water, as this could increase pain
  • Apply meat tenderizer (believe it or not, some people have this idea)
  • Apply alcohol as if it’s a sterilizing agent, you do not need to sterilize the area!
  • Apply ethanol and/or ammonia, as this will really increase painful symptoms, it may promote severe reactions, too
  • Rub the area with a towel or blanket
  • Apply any sort of pressure bandage to the area

Good luck this summer!


By Jenny Lyn