There are an estimated 150 million jellyfish stings annually throughout the world. A jellyfish sting is extremely painful and for some, jellyfish venom can be life threatening. For example, in the Philippines, 20-40 people die every year from the box jellyfish sting alone. If you are not in a life-threatening situation, a few natural remedies can help to remove nematocysts and relieve the pain.
First Line of Defense
Before you do anything, you need to remove the tentacle if still attached. Use tweezers or any available object such as a stick. Try to avoid using your hands. There are still nematocysts embedded in the skin, which are continuing to inject toxins, so the next line of defense is to inactivate them.
These remedies may help to soothe the wound, but the primary purpose is to inactive the nematocysts that continue to fire even when embedded in your skin. Plain white household vinegar is the remedy of choice for many emergency medical providers. Other natural remedies that may also prove effective are rubbing alcohol, ammonia, baking soda, lemon or lime juice, and meat tenderizer.
What about Urine?
As off-putting as it sounds, beachgoers have been recommending urination on a jellyfish sting site as an immediate remedy for decades. Though not scientifically proven effective, many scientists are now of the opinion that this act may actually exacerbate the situation by releasing picric acid that will actually cause the nematocysts to fire.
“Jellyfish stings: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002845.htm.
“Jellyfish Sting Treatment.” WebMD. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2010. <firstaid.webmd.com/wilderness-jellyfish-sting-treatment>.
A Randomized, Controlled Field Trial for the Prevention of Jellyfish Stings With a Topical Sting Inhibitor.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1965592/.
“NSF – Jellyfish Gone Wild.” nsf.gov – National Science Foundation – US National Science Foundation (NSF). N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2010. http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/jellyfish/textonly/biology_sting.jsp.