Shore thing: Painful jellyfish stings should be treated with care

For many people, summer is not complete without a swim in the ocean or a walk along the shore. The warm waters that attract us to the ocean each summer lure other creatures, including jellyfish, near the shoreline as well.

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

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

Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says a vinegar wash is an effective first treatment to help cool the burn of the sting. Other remedies include sprinkling meat tenderizer or applying a baking-soda-and-water paste on the sting prior to seeking medical attention.

“Don’t rinse with water because that could release more poison,” says Dr. Kleinschmidt.

Sometimes a jellyfish sting can produce an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing or hives. If this happens head to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

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

Media Contact: Connie Piloto

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