Jellyfish Stings

Mon, Nov 2nd 2009, 11:18

Jellyfish sting automatically when an object comes into contact with their tentacles. Even a beached or dying jellyfish will sting if something comes into contact with the stinging cells on their tentacles.

Jellyfish stings vary in toxicity depending on the species of jellyfish. Box jellyfish are known for their powerful venom which produces an extremely painful sting which can sometimes be fatal.

Jellyfish stinging cells fire venom automatically when they come into contact with an object. If a person comes into contact with a jellyfish it is important to get rid of any remains of the jellyfish so that the stinging cells do not continue to inject venom into the victim. Vinegar is the best treatment for a jellyfish sting. The Acetic acid in vinegar disables the stinging cells and any remains of tentacles should be removed immediately from the skin. Rubbing the wound, using alcohol, ammonia or urine is not advisable as it could encourage the release of more venom in the stinging cells.

Once all stinging cells are removed, ice can be applied to the skin to stop the venom spreading in the body. Then draw venom from the skin with a poultice of baking soda and water in a paste.

The Irukandji jellyfish is found around the northern coastal strip of Australia. Irukandji is the name of the Aboriginal people who live north of Cairns in Australia. These jellyfish have also been found round Hawaii, Florida, the Caribbean and Papua New Guinea.

The sting of the Irukandji jellyfish is severe, causing a condition known as Irukandji syndrome. If properly treated the sting should not be fatal but it is extremely traumatic.

The symptoms come on about 30 minutes after the sting - excruciating pain: headaches, backaches, nausea and vomiting, anxiety and pulmonary edema. It has a psychological effect on the victim too, giving them a panic reaction if impending doom as the symptoms get more severe. Patients have been known to beg their doctors to kill them to end the pain. The symptoms do fade eventually, though this can sometimes take up to two weeks!

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