Jellyfish Sting Treatment
Call 911 if:
- The person displays signs of a severe allergic reaction.
- The sting is from a box jellyfish.
- The sting covers more than half an arm or leg.
For more information about severe allergic reaction, see Anaphylaxis.
1. Get the Person Out of the Water
2. Stop Stinging
For a jellyfish sting in non-tropical waters:
- Wash the area with seawater to deactivate stinging cells.
For a sting in tropical waters -- especially from box jellyfish:
- Rinse immediately with vinegar. Do not use fresh or tap water, which can reactivate stinging cells.
- Continue until you can get medical help.
3. Decontaminate and Remove Tentacles
For stings not from a box jellyfish:
- Apply vinegar for 30 minutes.
- If vinegar is not available, apply shaving cream, soap lather, or paste of sand or mud and seawater.
- Scrape with razor or credit card to remove stinging cells.
4. Treat Discomfort
- Use mild hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamine to relieve itching and swelling.
5. Follow Up
For less severe sting:
- Use ice packs or over-the-counter pain relievers for welts.
- Clean open sores 3 times a day and apply antibiotic ointment. Bandage if needed.
For a severe reaction:
- The person may be hospitalized for several days.
- Anti-venom will be administered for box jellyfish stings.