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 Out of the Water

2. Stop the Stinging

  • Rinse the area with vinegar for at least 30 seconds.
  • Remove tentacles with a pair of tweezers.
  • After you remove the tentacles, soak the affected area in hot water (104-113 F or 40-45 C) for at least 20 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure the water is hot but not scalding. A hot shower is OK if that’s easier than soaking. Stay in the water for 20 to 45 minutes.
  • These treatments are based on research done in the Indo-Pacific areas and may not work for all stings.

3. Treat Discomfort

4. Follow Up

For less severe stings:

  • Use ice packs or over-the-counter pain relievers or antihistamines for welts.
  • Clean open sores three times a day and apply antibiotic ointment. Bandage if needed.

For a severe reaction:

  • You may be in the hospital for several days.
  • You need antivenin (also called antivenom) for Australian box jellyfish stings. Get to an ER and get the antivenin as quickly as you can.

How to Treat a Sting on or Near Your Eyes

It’s OK to wash your eyes with seawater. But get to the ER as soon as you can. They’ll flush your eyes with saline and give you pain medications. The ER doctor will probably send you to an ophthalmologist, a doctor who specializes in eye care.

Do Home Remedies Work?

Not really. Most are unproven. You may hear about these, but don’t try them:

  • Baking soda
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Pressure bandage
  • Urine
  • Alcohol
  • Scraping out stingers
  • Rinse with fresh water
  • Rub with a towel
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on May 07, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Fermie, P. The Illustrated Practical Book of First Aid & Family Health, Lorenz Books, 2005.

Subbarao, I. AMA Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care, Random House Reference, 2009.

Utox Update, University of Utah College of Pharmacy: "Marine Envenomations."

Mayo Clinic: “Jellyfish stings.”

UpToDate: “Jellyfish stings.”

American Heart Association: Circulation, 2010. 

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