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Jellyfish Sting? Here’s How to Treat It

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Jellyfish Sting? Here’s How to Treat It

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Been stung by a jellyfish? It’s more common than you might think: The Weather Channel recently reported that more than 3,000 people were treated for jellyfish stings in Central Florida in two weeks, and the beaches issued warnings of dangerous marine life.

The good news is that while they can be painful, jellyfish stings are very rarely life-threatening, and they’re easily treatable. Depending on the kind that stings you, most pain typically peaks five minutes after the sting occurs and dies down within a few hours. Generally, it won’t last longer than 24 hours.

There are a lot of myths on what to do in the aftermath of a sting, but Prevention spoke with experts about the best course of action to take. Here’s what to do — and what definitely not to do — in case a jellyfish gets you.

Get out of the water

If you’ve been stung, return to dry land as soon as possible to avoid getting stung again.

Don’t rinse off the affected area with drinking water

It could increase the pain. The nematocysts in the cells that cause the sting will actually release more venom and cause more pain. First, rinse with saltwater and try not to touch the affected area with your bare hands.

Peeing on the sting does nothing

The origins of the urination theory are unknown, but it was popularized by a Friends episode where Chandler pees on Monica. Don’t believe everything you see on TV though, because “it’s a total myth,” Ted Szymanski, D.O., an assistant professor of emergency medicine with the Mayo Clinic tells Prevention. “There’s no truth to it.”

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Do use vinegar

Dr. Szymanski suggests dousing the infected area with vinegar or acetic acid to immediately relieve pain.

Shaving cream might work, too

If you don’t have vinegar handy, shaving cream may also relieve pain, Dr. Syzmanski says. “If you put shaving cream on, it keeps nematocysts intact and they don’t rupture. You can wipe it off.”

Heat is key

In a set of guidelines provided to Prevention, the Red Cross recommends removing remaining tentacles with a “blunt object.” After rinsing the area with sea water, apply hot water or a hot pack “as hot as the patient can tolerate for 20 minutes” or until pain is relieved.

Seek help for worsening symptoms

Jellyfish-sting injuries are generally confined to irritation, burning, and stinging sensations on the affected area. However, in rare cases of severe envenomation, one might experience vomiting, trouble walking, nausea, headaches, and seizures. If that’s the case, Dr. Szymanski suggests seeking immediate medical attention at a nearby hospital.

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