Treating a jellyfish sting: Does urine really work?

You’re at the beach and you get stung by a jellyfish; What should you do?

Jellyfish stings: Does urine really work?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A baggie full of vinegar may be something you want to add to your beach bag, according to doctors at Novant Health, who claim it’s one of the best quick relief treatment for jellyfish stings.

Jellyfish blooms happen throughout the summer along the east coast. The jelly’s tentacles can reach more than 49 feet, health officials say, so getting stung is possible even if you don’t spot a jellyfish.

“The neurotoxins that shoot into you when their tentacles touch your skin would be enough to stun a small fish or shrimp,” Novant Health says.

Urine on jellyfish stings?

The thought behind putting urine on a jellyfish sting “is correct” doctors say, because the liquid contains high PH (acidiec) and can neutralize the venom that causes the stinging. “That said, [Dr. Chad] Weston does not recommend the move and he noted that white vinegar will work better and is more hygienic.”

Weston says because the jellyfish sting gives off a burning sensation, people automatically think “ice.” Weston says to use hot water instead, as it can bring relief.

Salt water or fresh water?

Doctors recommend using fresh water to clean the area, not salt water - even though it may seem convenient to jump back into the ocean.

Another treatment doctors mentioned is meat tenderizer. (Wait, what?)

“Jellyfish venom is protein-based and the papain enzyme in meat tenderizer breaks down those proteins, helping decrease the itching and burning," Novant says. “While this works, it is better to treat the jellyfish sting before it reaches this point.”

Tentacle removal

The best way to remove tentacles from skin is washing them off with vinegar or scraping them off with a credit card (or something similar), Weston says.

Wet sand is not recommended for removing the tentacles, and neither is flinging the tentacles on the beach.

Baggie of white vinegar

Weston, an avid beach-goer, says he always keeps a zip-style plastic bag full of white vinegar and paper towels in his beach bag. Since warmer is better, he leaves the baggie in the sun to have a solution ready.

“Quick treatment is vital for minimizing the effects of the jellyfish,” Novant says.

Some people can have allergic reactions to jellyfish stings, and young children are more at risk.

“If you or your child is lightheaded, dizzy, or having trouble breathing, you should visit an urgent care to get checked out,” Novant says.

Jellyfish stings should go away on their own with proper treatment.

Tip: Purple flags flying at the beach are a warning that jellyfish are in the area.

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