Ireland has an infestation of lion’s mane jellyfish and five people have needed hospital treatment after being stung by them.
That is according to Irish Water Safety, which said the jellyfish are in our waters weeks, if not months, earlier than normal.
The most recent victim of the painful jellyfish sting was Jack Dunne, 14, who was swimming at Port beach in Louth when the “huge” jellyfish stuck to his shoulder and chest.
His mother Melissa said that “its tentacles went around his legs and waist”.
Jack, who is 6ft tall, was with friends and swimming in shoulder-height water when he got stung. “His friends rang me and when we got to the beach he was on his hands and knees and finding it hard to breathe,” said Ms Dunne.
His parents immediately brought him to the emergency department of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Ms Dunne said that on the journey there, he was vomiting and in pain. “By the time we got to the hospital he was starting to lose the feeling in one of his legs with the pain. It was a horrible experience for him.”
He was given strong anti-histamines and anti-inflammatories and was much better the following day. Ms Dunne said the jellyfish was a lion’s mane and that they were also spotted at Clogherhead beach.
She said the family, “would not like to see a small child getting stung, or any child”. “The sting went through his body. He was in excruciating pain, and he said he will never swim in the sea again.”
John Leech, chief executive of Irish Water Safety, said: “This year is the earliest and largest infestation of lion’s mane jellyfish in my experience.”
They have also been seen in Galway Bay and are, “very very big and cannot be mistaken for anything else. They have very long tentacles and there were a lot in our waters last week because of the spring tide.”
Mr Leech said there have been lots of reports of them at Port beach and that the Jack “was very lucky”.
Mr Leech warned, that “there is the risk, although it is a small one, of some people going into anaphylactic shock” from such a sting.
Lion’s mane jellyfish is usually seen in Irish waters in September, when the water is warmer “but they are here this year in early July and [Jack] was the fifth person to be taken to A&E to be checked out”.
He said the increased number of jellyfish is because “there are not enough predators to eat them”. Their natural predators are turtles and sunfish, but due to plastic pollution of our oceans there are fewer around.
“The turtles are being killed off by our plastic pollution and that increases the number of jellyfish. It is the most serious problem we have to deal with.”
Mr Leech advised people to swim only at beaches with lifeguards as they do jellyfish patrols and can hoist a red flag.
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