How to deal with a jellyfish sting

Fact Checked

A jellyfish sting can occur among those who spend time in the beach. When spending time in a beach, check the water first if there are any jellyfish present. An individual is at risk for a jellyfish sting if he/she rushes into the water without checking.

When to seek emergency care

Call for an ambulance for the following:

  • Individual shows indications of a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.
  • Sting from a box jellyfish
  • Jellyfish sting covers almost half of the leg or arm

What should I do for a jellyfish sting?

The initial step is to move the individual out of the water if he/she has been stung by a jellyfish.

Reduce the stinging sensation

Wash the sting site using seawater to deactivate the stinging cells or get rid of the tentacles using tweezers or scrape with a credit card.

If the sting came from a box jellyfish or Portuguese man-of-war, the following should be done:

Jellyfish sting
The initial step is to move the individual out of the water if he/she has been stung by a jellyfish.
  • After getting rid of the tentacles, submerge the sting site in hot water right away at 40-45 degrees C at least 20 minutes. A hot shower can be used for other parts of the body.
  • An anti-venom is available for stings from a box jellyfish that must be given right away.

Getting rid of the tentacles

  • Rinse the area using vinegar at least 30 seconds. If vinegar is not available, a solution of baking soda can be used to deactivate the stinging cells.
  • Immerse the area in hot water at least 20 minutes if possible. A cold pack can be used instead if the area could not be soaked in hot water.

How to deal with the discomfort

A mild hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamine can be given to alleviate the swelling and itchiness.

Follow-up care

For a minor jellyfish sting, the following must be done:

  • Apply an ice pack or provide an over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Clean the open sores 3 times a day and apply an antibiotic ointment. You can also place a bandage if needed.

As for a severe reaction, the individual might require hospitalization for several days. An anti-venom should be given for stings from a box jellyfish.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on jellyfish sting is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to – register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are located in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Surrey, Winnipeg, Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa and Halifax.

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