You generally won't need to see your doctor for a jellyfish sting. If you do visit your doctor, he or she will be able to diagnose your injury by looking at it.
Sometimes treatment is based on the type of jellyfish that caused the sting. Your doctor may collect samples of the stingers.
Treatment for jellyfish includes first-aid care and medical treatment, depending on the type of jellyfish, the severity of the sting and your reaction to it.
Most jellyfish stings can be treated as follows:
- Carefully pluck visible tentacles with a fine tweezers.
- Soak the skin in hot water. Use water that's 110 to 113 F (43 to 45 C). If a thermometer isn't available, test the water on an uninjured person's hand or elbow — it should feel hot, not scalding. Keep the affected skin immersed or in a hot shower for 20 to 45 minutes.
Steps to avoid
These actions are unhelpful or unproved:
- Scraping out stingers
- Rinsing with seawater
- Rinsing with human urine
- Rinsing with fresh water
- Applying meat tenderizer
- Applying alcohol, ethanol or ammonia
- Rubbing with a towel
- Applying pressure bandages
- Emergency care. Someone having a severe reaction to a jellyfish sting may need cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), life support or, if the sting is from a box jellyfish, antivenin medication.
- Oral medicine. A rash or other skin reaction due to delayed hypersensitivity may be treated with oral antihistamines or corticosteroids. You may also be given oral pain medicine.
- Eye flushing. A jellyfish sting occurring on or near an eye requires immediate medical care for pain control and a good eye flushing. You will likely be seen by a doctor specializing in eye care (ophthalmologist).
Oct. 19, 2018
- Tintinalli JE, et al. Marine trauma and envenomation. In: Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw Hill Companies; 2016. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed June 5, 2017.
- Cegolon L, et al. Jellyfish stings and their management: A review. Marine Drugs. 2013;11:523.
- Purcell JE. Jellyfish in Chesapeake Bay and nearby waters. NOAA Ocean Service Education. http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/lessons/stinging_sea_append.html. Accessed June 5, 2017.
- Li L, et al. Interventions for the symptoms and signs resulting from jellyfish stings. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD009688.pub2/abstract. Accessed June 5, 2017.
- Ward NT, et al. Evidence-based treatment of jellyfish stings in North America and Hawaii. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2012;60:399.
- Auerbach PS. In reply to evidence-based treatment of jellyfish stings in North America and Hawaii. Annals of Emergency Medicine. 2013;61:253.
- Marcus EN, et al. Jellyfish stings. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 5, 2017.
- Hornbeak KB, et al. Marine envenomation. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. 2017;35:321.
- Lakkis. Jellyfish stings: A practical approach. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 2015;26:422.
- Yanagihara AA, et al. Cubozoan sting-site seawater rinse, scraping, and ice can increase venom load: Upending current first aid recommendations. Toxins. 2017; 9:104.
- Jellyfish stings. Divers Alert Network. https://www.diversalertnetwork.org/medical/faq/Jellyfish_Stings. Accessed Sept. 18, 2017.