Taking the sting out of jellyfish encounters

If you’re headed to the ocean this summer, watch out for jellyfish as you wade into the waters or walk along the shore, emergency medicine physicians from UT Southwestern Medical Center warn.

The invertebrates use a net of tentacles packed with poisonous stinging cells to capture prey for food, and when the tentacles brush against animals or humans, thousands of tiny stinging cells explode, launching barbed stingers and poisons into the victim.

If someone gets stung, bring the person out of the water immediately and make sure no jellyfish tentacles are wrapped around his or her body. If they are, remove them using a stick or towel.

Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, chief of medical toxicology at UT Southwestern, says a vinegar wash is an effective first treatment to help cool the sting’s burn. Other remedies include sprinkling meat tenderizer or applying a paste of baking soda and water on the sting before seeking medical attention.

“Don’t rinse with tap or bottled water because that could release more poison,” says Dr. Kleinschmidt. Uncommonly, a jellyfish sting can produce a more severe reaction such as difficulty breathing. If this happens head to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/emergency to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for emergency medicine.

Media Contact: Russell Rian