Treating Jellyfish Stings

jelly fish stingYou’ve probably seen the cartoons of the person who is urinating on someone who is suffering from a Jellyfish sting.

Jellyfish stings, especially from some – are painful experiences for those who want to enjoy the water in the ocean. As a result there have been many folk remedies such as vinegar, meat tenderizer, to a slurry made with baking soda and water. But recently in the Journal of Emergency medicine, a review of 19 articles showed the best way to treat those stings in North America.  The first way is to avoid them- but if you are swimming in the ocean, you won’t always see those little creatures. So if you get stung, and you will feel it if you do, here is what you can do:

But in North America the most effective remedies are hot water and creams that contain the pain-numbing medicine, lidocaine spray. Worth keeping in your beach bag if you plan on swimming in the ocean.

Keep this spray in your beach bag. Good for treating scrapes, sunburn, and jellyfish stings

Jelly fish leave stingers in a person similar to bees. These contain a sac that contains venom – the first treatment is to try to get these venom sacs off the skin as they keep releasing the toxin. Hot water helps to “denature” the venom. As with bees who leave their stinger, the venom sacs should be scrapped off and not pulled off. Pulling them can result in crushing the sac and releasing more venom.

Sometimes the jellyfish will leave behind an entire tentacle – and that also needs to be removed- but not with your hands.

If you plan on swimming in the golf of Mexico or in Florida where there are Portugese man-of-ars, or bluebottles then vinegar helps ease the sting. They seem to be the only species. Again, not commonly found in the beach bag, but we would recommend it.

For your beach bag first aid kit we recommend:
Lidocaine containing spray – like Solarcaine
Vinegar if in Florida or along the Gulf coast
A thermos bottle with some hot water in it
A pocket knife to scrape the stingers off
Better than the knife is to get a magnifying tweezer
Tongs to remove a tentacle

Be lucky we don’t live in Australia where some small jelly fish have venom so powerful it can kill people.

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit


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