Vinegar and hot water treat common jellyfish sting

Vinegar, as opposed to urine, is the best way to treat a jellyfish sting.

This is according to research from NUI Galway and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

The newly published study shows that a sting from a Lion’s Mane, which is the most problematic jelly-fish in Irish and British waters, is best treated with vinegar and then hot water.

The Lion’s Mane, which stings hundreds of people in Ireland annually, has more than 1,000 tentacles which stretch to lengths of 4m-5m.

If a person is stung, they should first rinse the area with vinegar to remove the tentacles and then immerse it in hot water measuring to 45°C for 40 minutes or cover the area with a heat pack.

The research mirrors the results of studies on the Portuguese man o’ war and box jellyfish stings.

It has now been shown that the vinegar and hot water combination works on stings from all three jelly-fish, therefore it will be much easier to standardise a first aid treatment for the ailment.

At the moment, current best practice in Ireland the UK is for sea water and a cold pack to be placed on the sting. The new research finds this to be incorrect.

The sea water and cold compress combination induces significant increases in venom delivery while rinsing with vinegar does not.

Tom Doyle, lead author of the study and a lecturer in zoology at the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, said the new findings will help to formulate a standardised treatment for jelly-fish stings.

“What most people don’t understand is that these jellyfish — the Lion’s Mane, the Portuguese man o’ war and a box jellyfish, are as different from each other as a dog and a snake,” said Dr Doyle. “Therefore when developing first aid treatment for a jellyfish sting it is very important to test different treatments on these very different types of jellyfish.

“Now that we have shown that vinegar and hot water work on these three jellyfish species, it will be much easier to standardise and simplify first aid for jellyfish stings where many different types of jellyfish occur.”

He also reminded people that most jellyfish stings in Ireland are no worse than a nettle sting.

Beach users can assist in ongoing research by recordings sightings of jellyfish on the Biodiversity Ireland website.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that “jellyfish stings in Ireland are not usually life threatening”.

According to the EPA: “All jellyfish possess ‘stingers’ on their tentacles and brushing against the tentacles can cause the release of these stingers which contain venom.”

The agency said that the problematic Lion’s Mane and the Portuguese man o’ war have sharper stinging cells which pierce the skin very easily.


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