For a creature that is only 5 % body matter , and doesn’t have a brain , these nemesis
of the the sea can turn a relaxing day at the beach into misery and agony. There are
over 9000 species of jelly fish known , each with their own flavor of venom , there are
approximately 100 that are toxic to humans . They are responsible for more
envenomations the any other marine phylum. Of all of the venomous species, the box
jellyfish , Portuguese Man-of-War , and jellyfish Chironex flicker can cause significant
mortality and morbidity.
An estimated 150 million marine envenomations occur annually globally , very few of
which require medical attention other than basic first aid. The American association of
Poison Control Centers reported 354 jelly fish stings in 2013 . They can range from sea
bathers eruption ( Sea Lice ) that are common to the east coast and caribbean , to
Portuguese Man of War to boxfish envenomation which can be fatal. Most cases can be
treated at the beach with some basic first aid measures.
The biggest thing is to prevent getting stung . Jelly fish possess stinging cells called
nematocysts around their mouths and on their tentacles which are long stands that trail
their main body . These stinging cells can release a variety of proteins that cause injury
to those unfortunate enough to come in contact with them .Avoiding jelly fish stings can
simply be done by being aware of posted warnings or asking life guards if any warnings
or observations of there presence exist. Another measure is simply to study the surf and
ocean prior to swimming . Remember , jellyfish have existed for over 500 million years
and are quite at home in the ocean.
When someone gets hit by a jellyfish , as long as the stingers are still in the victim , they
will continue to release venom, wether they are attached to the jellyfish or
not .Removing the stingers can be done with the edge of a seashell or a credit card,but
must be done gently to avoid reactivating them. Do not use your fingers. Most of
all ,stay calm, keep your pulse low, and expose the envenomated area to a rinse with
hot water and first air measures to prevent infections. Rumored are the use of vinegar
and peeing on your friend or family have been generally found to ineffective measures
as tested by lifeguards in Australia who deal with more jellyfish envenomations than
anyone else in the world . The only exception are envenomations to Box Jellyfish where
vinegar use on the stung area has been to be found effective in deactivating their
venom as well as prompt medical care.
Anyone who is stung, seek immediate med by a jellyfish and manifests symptoms more that a localized area
of burning or pain should seek attention.
Peter C Valko , MD, FACEP