A ferry ride to Cape May, NJ was my first introduction to jellyfish! About halfway between Delaware and New Jersey, I witnessed huge jellyfish all around the ferry. Seeing them on television did them no justice. Well, years later, while walking along the beach at Atlantic City, New Jersey, I saw clear blobs along the shore. My husband informed me that they were jellyfish and, although they were not in water, they could still pack a blow…or sting.
Jellyfish are interesting creatures, made up of 95% water, having no bones, brain, blood, heart, lungs, or gills. Missing all of this, however, they have the ability to sense light, taste, and smell. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 varieties of jellyfish. They use their ability to release stingers to paralyze their prey and also as a defense mechanism.
How someone reacts to the sting of a jellyfish varies from person to person. A person’s health, size of the jellyfish, and the number of stings determines severity. The sting of a jellyfish almost immediately causes a burning sensation, redness, localized swelling, numbness where stung, and even necrosis (skin death).
If at a beach and you witness someone stung or get stung yourself, get the attention and assistance of the lifeguard. The faster the area is treated, the better the outcome. Get the victim away from the danger and out of the water. Use what you’ve got; rinse the area with sea water (or meat tenderizer, or vinegar to inactivate the chemicals). Next, try to remove the stinging agents (be sure to wear gloves), using the back of a butter knife, tweezers, or a credit card. Be sure to apply a cortisone cream and consider taking Benadryl.
As stated before, the severity of a jellyfish sting is determined by several factors. Even if a person thinks that they are okay, it is recommended that a lifeguard or urgent care be sought. There are instances where someone should seek Emergency Room treatment. Any seizures, paralysis, respiratory difficulty, irregular heartbeat, confusion, severe muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting requires interventions that an Emergency Room can provide. One of the most dangerous problems related to jellyfish stings is anaphylactic shock which may require intravenous administration of medication.
Although it is important to have fun while at the beach, it is also important to be on alert for jellyfish when in the water or walking along the beach. Listen to the warnings of the lifeguards and watch children carefully. Do not allow children to play with seemingly dead jellyfish that wash ashore. And seek medical care when needed for proper treatment. Be alert and have fun!
The information in this article is to be used for informational purposes only. It is NOT to be used in place of, or in conjunction with, professional medical advice. Anyone with questions regarding this or other medical issues discussed on this site must consult their physician for further information and treatment.