How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting (and No, Don't Pee on it)

Photo of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor24 July 2017

For brainless gelatinous blobs, jellyfish pack an impressive punch. Their tentacles are covered in cells called cnidocytes which, once they come into contact with your body, shoot vicious venom that immediately begins to erode skin, causing blistering, burning and a whole lot of pain.

An ocean encounter with a jellyfish can really put the brakes on your vacation, and in some cases could land you in a hospital, so what should you do to treat the wound? Despite what you’ve probably heard (and seen on that infamous episode of Friends) the DIY emergency solution has nothing to do with urination.

Experts warn that pouring water—and yes, that includes pee—over the affected area might mess with the cells that still reside on the skin’s surface, triggering more venom to be released. Instead it’s best to gingerly remove any lingering tentacles—lifting them away from the skin with tweezers rather than scraping—then apply vinegar for 30 seconds to neutralize.

Next, run a bath or fill a bucket and slowly submerge the sting in hot water—as scorching as you can bear—for 20 minutes. Heat, rather than the ice you probably want, can help reduce the sting.

Once you’ve sought proper medical attention the wound should heal within a couple of weeks. Not ideal when you’re trying to enjoy the beach, but—silver lining—at least you didn’t get peed on.

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