At any time during the year, and in every ocean, a dive into the blue could lead to an encounter with jellyfish. The soft-bodied
aquatic animals have a distinctive gelatinous umbrella-shaped bell and trailing
tentacles, and some can deliver a painful,
possibly fatal venomous injection.
Jellyfish are not fish at all, but in fact
primitive marine animals that have lived
in our oceans for more than 500 million
years. They come in a variety of shapes,
sizes, and colors, from translucent to
vibrant and even luminescent. They range
in size from penny-sized freshwater ones
to giant pillow-top floating Portuguese
man-of-war in saltwater across the world.
Jellyfish float using the currents or
swim by moving under water, pulsat-
Take the ouch out of jellyfish stings
Most everything you’ve learned about treating jellyfish stings is probably wrong. Sometimes a
sting is just an unpleasant surprise. Sometimes, it’s more serious. Either way, here’s what to do
ing up and down by sucking in water
and forcing it out. Although encounters
may be singular, jellyfish swarms or
“blooms” can be exceptionally hazardous
and increase the chances of being stung
and badly hurt.
Almost all jellyfish have tentacles of
various lengths that hang from a flexible
gelatinous head. The ends of the tentacles contain specialized stinging cells,
called nematocysts, which look like tight
springs. When the tentacles touch something, they spring open, firing paralyzing
venom into the victim. The prey is then
brought underneath the head where the
mouth devours it. Even in dead jellyfish,
is a 501(c)
( 3) nonprofit
keeping boating safe and
clean, and it
is independently funded
SAFE, SMART & CLEAN
BY HELEN AITKEN, FOR THE BOATU.S. FOUNDATION FOR BOATING SAFETY AND CLEAN WATER
How to treat
1. Clean the area with vinegar or
seawater — never freshwater.
2. Cover the site with a hydrocortisone
cream and bandage.
3. Use a hot pack, water immersion, or
hot-water bottle filled with the
hottest tap water (about 120 F) inside
a thick towel, and cover the affected
area for about 20 minutes.
4. Check the area often for blisters or
tissue changes, and the patient for
increased heart rate.
5. Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for
pain (never aspirin to children), unless
the victim has been stung near the
mouth or is having breathing problems. In this case, go to the hospital.
6. Continue using heat therapy as
necessary. Seek medical attention
if needed. — H.A.
Stings from an
are rarely deadly
but may require