This story was originally published by The Inertia
Editor's Note: You can learn more basic first aid tips and tricks from the folks at Surf Aid Kit, who built a specialized safety kit every traveling wave-rider can use.
Jellyfish stings are ubiquitous for anybody who spends any amount of time at the beach, but it's important to know they're not a one-size-fits-all hazard. Based on the type of jelly you've been stung by, there are actually different methods of treatment you should be knowledgeable about whether on a remote trip or simply at your local.
Your first step should always be simply figuring out if you were stung by a tropical jelly (Box Jelly, Irukandji…) or non-tropical (e.g. Bluebottle, Stingers…):
Signs of a Tropical Jellyfish Sting
- Pain at the site (sometimes extreme)
- Respiratory and cardiac arrest may happen within minutes
- Severe pain (back and abdomen)
- Nausea, vomiting, sweating
- A feeling of impending doom (no joke…)
*Note that these are gnarly jellyfish stings. Most tropical jellyfish are found in the north of Australia and they get roughly as far south as Gladstone in Queensland and Exmouth in Western Australia.
Signs of a Non-Tropical Jellyfish Sting
- Immediate pain ranging from mild irritation to intense, sharp, or burning sensation
- Whip-like marks, raised welts, and redness on the skin
- Muscle aches and cramps
- Nausea, vomiting
First Aid for a Tropical Jellyfish Sting:
- Remove victim from the water
- Seek urgent medical aid.
- Calm the victim.
- Flood the stung area with vinegar for at least 30 seconds.
- If vinegar isn't available, flick tentacles off using a stick or gloved fingers and rinse with seawater. DO NOT use fresh water. This will cause further stinging cell discharge.
- Apply a cold pack.
- Rest and reassure victim, monitor vital signs and consciousness until medical aid arrives.
- Give CPR if necessary.
First Aid for a Non-Tropical Jellyfish Sting:
- Rest and reassure the victim.
- Prevent the victim from rubbing the stung area.
- Monitor the victim constantly.
- Douse affected area with seawater, DO NOT use freshwater.
- Pick off any remaining tentacles with fingers taking care not to get stung yourself.
- If possible place the stung area in hot water (no hotter than the victim can tolerate).
- Seek medical aid if required.