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Treating Jellyfish Stings

Apply an ammonia and water compress quickly

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At certain times of the year, you’ll see Miami lifeguards warning swimmers that Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish are in the ocean. The jellyfish float above the water and the tentacles cause a painful burn if touched. Lifeguards will try to warn swimmers by flying a yellow flag with a black jellyfish in front of the lifeguard stands, but it’s up to you to stay alert when you’re in the water.

I’ve talked with lifeguards who don’t know the remedy for treating jellyfish burns, so if you happen to get stung, here is some advice on what to do:

  • Pick off any tentacles with a gloved hand or stick
  • Rinse the sting with salt or fresh water
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Apply ammonia and water compress liberally onto the sting
  • Vinegar is NOT recommended for Portuguese man-of-war stings.
  • Apply ammonia compress for 30 minutes or until pain is relieved.

If the victim has a large area involved (entire arm, leg, face, genitals), is very young, very old, or shows any signs of generalized illness or loss of breath, seek help from a doctor.

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About the Author:

Gus Moore heads up Miami Beach 411 as site administrator. You can reach him at 1-305-754-2206.

See more articles by Gus.

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Updated for 2017. Want to hear a firsthand account? Read Doug's post about getting stung by a jellyfish.
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