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First Aid & Emergencies

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Marine Stings and Scrapes - Home Treatment

Home treatment can help ease your discomfort and prevent other problems.

Jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings

  • Do not rub the tentacles with your hands, a towel, sand, or clothing.
  • Use hot water on the area to help remove the nematocysts, the stinging part of the tentacle. If available, topical lidocaine can be applied to the sting area.
  • If hot water and lidocaine are not available, remove the nematocysts and wash the area with salt water.
  • For some types of jellyfish stings, a compress of household vinegar (5% acetic acid solution) and hot water can be used on the affected area to prevent further stings.
  • Do not use urine, gasoline, kerosene, or turpentine.
  • Rinse eye stings with a saline solution, such as Artificial Tears. Do not put vinegar, alcohol, or any other "stinger solution" in the eyes. The skin around the eye can be dabbed with a cloth soaked in vinegar, but you must be extremely careful not to get any of the solution in the eye.
  • After decontamination, pick off tentacles with a stick or your hand protected by a towel or glove. Be very careful not to rub or press the tentacles.
  • If it is available, apply a lather of shaving cream or soap, or a paste of baking soda, flour, or talc to the skin. The stinging cells will stick to the shaving cream or paste and can then be easily scraped off with a safety razor, a knife edge, or the edge of a credit card.
  • Take an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine, or apply 1% hydrocortisone cream to help control itching. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to. Also, don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
  • Use an ice pack to help relieve pain.
  • Clean any open sores 3 times per day, apply an antiseptic ointment (such as bacitracin), and cover with a light bandage.
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