The jellyfish population has exploded in the past few years. Although these little creatures are imperative to the eco-system, few of us appreciate them colonising the sea – and these feelings are well founded. Although some of these jellyfish are harmless, others have millions of very small stinging cells in their tentacles called nematocysts which inject toxins in their preys. When we are stung, these toxins are released through our skin, which trigger the excruciating pain we feel soon afterwards.
There are some remedies to remove the toxins from our skin instantaneously but there are also several myths about treatment roaming around on the internet – some weirder than others – so read more to learn to distinguish myth from reality!
MYTH: Apply ice to the affected area
Although someone’s initial inclination when experiencing swelling is to apply ice to the affected area, it has been shown that applying ice before treating and eliminating the toxin can make the experience a more painful one. Ice should only be applied after the stinging has subsided!
REALITY: Apply white vinegar or salt water
In order to deactivate the toxins, vinegar is especially helpful thanks to its neutralising effect. If no vinegar is available (because who carries vinegar to the beach, right?), the infinite supply of salt water available can be equally as helpful to lessen the discomfort.
MYTH: Wash the stinging skin with fresh water
Although many may opt to apply fresh water to the stung area, doing so will actually cause the nematocysts to continue to release their toxin and therefore increase the level of pain and discomfort.
REALITY: Scrape the affected area with a credit card
After neutralising the toxins, it is important to wipe off any residual tentacles. Just like snakes, jellyfish can still emit toxins even when death or de-limbed, I’m afraid. Use a dull knife or a preferably a credit card to scrape off any residue of the jellyfish from the affected area.
MYTH: Urinating on the skin
In the past few years, a rumour has spread about urine being the miracle oracle for jellyfish stings. This eventually developed into a well-known joke in one of Friends’ episodes. Well, I’m sorry to confirm that, this is NOT true. Red Cross has disconfirmed such rumour and went as far as stating that if the substance is too dilute, it may have the same effect, on the affected area, as freshwater.
REALITY: Being stung by a jellyfish can be avoided
Wearing a wetsuit is one way of avoiding getting stung. If that is too intricate for some of you out there, lotions specially produced to repel jellyfish have been released to the market. Although some may be skeptical of these products, others swear by them. I guess they’re worth the shot if they may guarantee a pain-free day at the beach!