Rising temperatures, decreasing rainfall on the coast, decreasing fish populations in the coastal strip… These are the perfect conditions for jellyfish to become more and more frequent on our coasts every year:
The ten myths about jellyfish stings
To know more
First of all, although not all species of jellyfish, those that come repeatedly to our beaches do “like” warm water, and especially when it is more saline, something that increases when the rainfall decreases.
Secondly, the decrease in fish populations, their natural predators, makes their populations much higher than what would be ecologically advisable and desirable.
That is why we have become accustomed to living with them in the coastal summers of the last decade, so much so that in the Mediterranean we are beginning to see gigantic specimens of Rizhostoma luteum, a species that can reach two metres in length and weigh up to 40 kilos, although its sting is not dangerous, although it does sting.
Consequently, we must get used to the possibility of a chance encounter with a jellyfish that ends in a sting, although we should rather say that the action is very similar to that of nettles: the shot by contact of small crystals with irritating substance that stick in our skin. Sometimes they can also leave us hooked part of their tentacles.
And with such certainty, the best thing to do is to know how to act and what actions to avoid because they will aggravate the wound. There are still some misconceptions or misconceptions among many people about the right treatments.
What not to do if you get stung by a jellyfish
In the event of a painful encounter with a jellyfish we will refrain from the following actions.
1. Immediately get out of the water and put on fresh water.
Under no circumstances should you ever, under any circumstances, run to the showers and wash yourself with fresh water. Do not even apply fresh water to the bite. The reason is that while the stinging cells of the jellyfish have salt water inside them, fresh water has hardly any salts.
This generates an osmotic pressure difference that causes the fresh water to enter the stinging cells to dilute the salt concentration of their plasma, thereby causing them to burst. When they burst, they pour all the poison they contain on our skin and the effect will be worse.
2. Make someone urinate on us
There is an extensive literature on remedies for jellyfish stings. The most exotic is the one that recommends pouring urine on the sting.
First of all, urine has not been proven to be a good antidote against the irritant substance given off by the stinging cells of the jellyfish, which stick to our skin and stick us with small crystals impregnated with venom.
But also, if the wound caused by the irritation of the sting is serious, the addition of urine can easily lead to infections and further irritation, given its normally acidic pH.
3. Applying iodine or ammonia to ourselves
It does not seem very wise to pour vinegar or ammonia on the irritated area unless the bite is quite punctual. These are aggressive liquids that in a very large wound can only cause greater damage, even if they can neutralize the poison, which is usually a substance of a basic nature.
4. Rubbing with sand
Another counterproductive myth. Sand has no positive or absorbent effect on the stinging venom, but it can create erosions on the skin, which is already sensitive after sun exposure. With sand what we do is to increase the possibility of infections.
What works if we get stung by a jellyfish
1. Stay in salt water for a long time.
Seawater is the best antidote for immediate intervention against jellyfish, as it does not cause the stinging cells to burst and dilutes the venom. What you should do, as long as you are not in a complicated area or you feel really bad, is to stay between a quarter and half an hour in the sea with the area of the sting soaking. This will lessen its severity.
2. Carefully remove the remains, if any.
Always in the salt water, we should gently rub the area to remove the remains of cells or legs of the jellyfish if they are stuck to us. Even if the cells burst, the sea water will wash away the venom. It is recommended to remove the tentacles with a glove or a rag and rub with little aggressiveness.
3. Apply antihistamine ointment.
Always under the recommendation of a pharmacist or a doctor, if after a few hours the area still hurts, it is advisable to apply an antihistamine ointment or, if there is a wound, a disinfectant.
4. Do not apply fresh water until after two or three hours.
For the reasons given above, it is advisable to avoid exposure to fresh water in the area until after a few hours, as there could be unexploded cells that do so and pour their irritating substances.
5. In the event of anaphylactic shock, call the emergency department.
If there is a reaction of anaphylaxis in the affected person, Jaime Barreiro-López, emergency nurse in EMS and associate professor at the University of Barcelona of the Master of Critical Illness and Emergencies, ensures that “the prudent attitude is to contact the lifeguard if there is one and/or, failing that, call 112 and follow the instructions”.
“When we call 112, they will tell us what to do after making a medical assessment over the phone,” says Barreiro, who also notes that “the patient does not have to move, but it is a medical ambulance or a helicopter that has to reach the place and perform the treatment of the pathology.
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