Unusually warm ocean waters around the Northeastern U.S. have brought a surge in the man-o-war jellyfish population. These are the ones that float on the surface – looking kind of like partially inflated plastic bags – with poisonous tentacles that dangle below the water. Swimmers or beachcombers that get too close can suffer painful “stinging” from the tentacles. We are not doctors, and can’t dispense medical advice, but we’re told that people who have been stung find relief by:
- Getting out of the water and rinsing the affected area with vinegar for at least 30 seconds. If vinegar is not available, urine is said to help as well.
- Removing the tentacles from the skin with a pair of tweezers.
- Soaking the affected area in hot (but not scalding) water for at least 20 minutes. A hot shower is okay if that’s easier than soaking, but increase the shower time to 20-45 minutes.
- After these initial steps, using mild hydrocortisone cream or an oral antihistamine to relieve itching and swelling. Ice packs and over-the-counter pain relievers can also help.
- Cleaning any open sores three times a day and apply antibiotic ointment. Bandaging if needed.