With summer well and truly upon us, many are heading for a vacation and to the beach. Normally, the only issues that people suffer from are sand in awkward places and perhaps some sunburn. However, wherever there is salt water, there are also jellyfishes. Some are huge and easy to spot, while others are tiny. All, however, pack a punch when it comes to their stings and if you do get hurt by one, it is important to know what to expect.
On the site of the sting, it is very common to experience an irritated, red rash. Usually, these symptoms are quite mild, although it does depend on the type of jellyfish that stung you. With a Portuguese man-of-war, for instance, you can expect severe symptoms including swelling, pain and blistering. Certain more serious symptoms are also possible.
Certain patients may also experience sensations of burning or stinging that extend into the skin surrounding the sting site. These side effects require immediate medical attention and may persist for several days.
Nausea and Vomiting
In some cases, people who have been stung by a jellyfish can experience mild to severe stomach problems. These include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Some people may also start to develop a fever, as well as sweat profusely. This condition constitutes a medical emergency and should be looked at by a medical professional immediately. Most people, however, will only suffer from this for around 24 hours.
Joint Pain and Muscle Cramps
Several hours after a jellyfish sting, people may start to develop muscle cramps and joint pain. The joint pain is generally felt in every single joint in the body and is best compared to the pain of arthritis. This does not constitute a medical emergency, but is very uncomfortable. The length of time that this will continue depends on the type of jellyfish and the severity of the sting. While it is generally not a serious problem, some people may find that it affects the heart, in which case medical attention should be sought immediately.
Numerous other symptoms can also occur. Some experience breathing difficulties and becoming confused. Generalized weakness can also occur, as well as chest pain. In most cases, these symptoms are serious and can indicate a bad allergic reaction.
It is vital, therefore to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Treatment for jellyfish stings depends on the severity of the sting, the type of jellyfish and whether or not the tentacles are still on the body. With a box jellyfish, it is vital to keep completely still until medical attention arrives. In the meantime, the area should be soaked in vinegar.
While you are waiting for medical help, flood the area with vinegar until medical help is available and keep as still as possible. If you are not close to medical care, soak the area and tentacles for 10 minutes or more, before attempting to remove them.
It is also possible to apply a pressure dressing to the area, thereby preventing the toxin from spreading. The most important thing, however, is to always seek medical attention after a box jellyfish sting. Another thing to remember is that all jellyfish stings can be treated with vinegar soaking, and that no fresh water should ever be applied to the affected area. In fresh water, the nematocysts on the tentacles of the jellyfish can continue to release toxins. Hence, if no vinegar is available, rinsing the affected area in salt water from the sea is a far more effective method. In most cases, taking ibuprofen or tylenol for a few hours or days is sufficient to deal with the pain.
Again depending on the type of jellyfish, it may be necessary to remove the tentacles. If they are present on the sting site, they must be removed. However, this must be done right. If you do not think you are able to do that, then it is best to seek medical assistance and have professionals look after it. It is very important that the tentacles are fully decontaminated by first soaking them in vinegar or a suitable alternative, before using hot water. Next, soak the area in hot water for at least 20 minutes if possible. Cold packs can be used instead if the area can’t be soaked in hot water.
Another very important thing to remember is that not all jellyfish stings are the same. In fact, there are some jellyfish stings, particularly in the North Atlantic, that cannot be treated with vinegar. In fact, using vinegar on those stings will make the situation worse. This is why it is very important to research the commonly occurring jellyfish where you are so that you know how to treat a sting.
In the vast majority of cases, jellyfish stings are mild inconveniences that will bother you for a few days at most. However, in some cases, the issue can be far more significant, particularly if you are stung by a dangerous type of jellyfish. The sea wasp box jellyfish is by far the most dangerous of all.
This is the most deadly jellyfish in the world, and one of the most deadly creatures on the planet altogether. Since 1954, 5,568 deaths have been attributed to this jelly. The pain from the sting itself is incredibly intense, and may cause death even before the venom does, as it can lead to shock. If miraculously you survive a sting from one of these jellies, you will be in an extreme amount of pain for weeks following the encounter.
The Irukandji Jellyfish is equally dangerous, if not more. It is actually in the same family as the box jellyfish. What makes this one different, however, is that it is tiny. The positive is that it is hard for this jellyfish to sting more than once due to its tiny size. While a single sting is painful, sometimes deadly, it can be treated. Finally, there is the Portuguese man-of-war, which is actually more of a complex organism of different living things. Its incredibly long tentacles mean that seeing one in the distance may mean you are about to get stung already.