In the past few days, over 700 box jellyfish have washed onto Oahu's south shore, making it important to know how to treat a jellyfish sting in case you or your child get stung.
When a box jellyfish stings, a tentacle adheres to skin, and pumps nematocysts with venom into the skin, causing the stinging sensation and agonizing pain. A local site devoted to tracking jellyfish in Hawaii, 808 Jellyfish, lists the following remedies for both preventing the firing of any undischarged nematocysts remaining on the skin and for relieving the pain from a sting:
To prevent more stinging, immediately flood the area with household vinegar (a good thing to have in a first aid kit for a day at the beach). After applying vinegar, pluck off any tentacles with a stick or other tool. Never rub an affected area. Exposed eyes should be irrigated with water for 15 minutes (if vision blurs or the eyes continue to tear, hurt, swell, or are light sensitive after irrigating, you should see a doctor).
For pain relief, ice packs should be used (there are no studies support the application of heat for pain relief).
Many people suggest the use of urine or alcohol as nematocyst remedies, but both can be harmful. One study reports that both alcohol and urine caused massive discharge of box jellyfish nematocysts.
Few box jellyfish cause life-threatening reactions. However, some people are more sensitive than others and some people may be allergic. If the victim has shortness of breath, weakness, muscle cramps, palpitations or any other generalized symptoms, immediately call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room.
For more information: To learn more about box jellyfish and their stings, click here.