ASK THE EX­PERTS

WHAT IF I GET STUNG BY A JEL­LY­FISH?

Scuba Diving - - Currents - BY DIVERS ALERT NET­WORK

Q HOW CAN I AVOID A ST­ING?

A A jel­ly­fish stings through mil­lions of spe­cial­ized mi­cro­scopic barbs called ne­ma­to­cysts found on its ten­ta­cles. These cells are ca­pa­ble of sting­ing even if they break off or wash up on the beach, and it can be dif­fi­cult to avoid tiny frag­ments of ten­ta­cles in the wa­ter col­umn. The only way to pre­vent a st­ing is to avoid skin con­tact with a ten­ta­cle, so it is ad­vis­able to wear a dive skin or a full-body wet­suit in ar­eas where jel­ly­fish might be com­mon.

Some­thing as thin as a Ly­cra skin (or stinger suit) pro­vides a thick enough me­chan­i­cal bar­rier to pro­tect you.

Q HOW CAN I TREAT A ST­ING?

A If you sus­pect you are hav­ing an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion due to symp­toms like hives, con­stric­tion of the air­ways, a weak and rapid pulse, nausea, vom­it­ing or dizzi­ness, ac­ti­vate emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices im­me­di­ately. In the case of most jel­ly­fish stings, here is how you should re­spond:

1 Avoid rub­bing. This could cause en­ven­o­ma­tion and ad­di­tional in­jury.

2 Re­move ten­ta­cles us­ing tweez­ers or gloves.

3 Flush the area with sea­wa­ter. Never rinse with fresh wa­ter; this could cause un­fired ne­ma­to­cysts to burst.

4 Im­merse the area in hot wa­ter for 30 to 90 min­utes. Use the hottest wa­ter you can tol­er­ate on the skin sur­round­ing the in­jury. If nec­es­sary, seek emer­gency med­i­cal eval­u­a­tion.

Q SHOULD I USE VINE­GAR?

A Some stud­ies have shown that vine­gar can cause the fir­ing of sting­ing cells with one species, caus­ing ad­di­tional in­jury. Cur­rent AHA guide­lines rec­om­mend white vine­gar as first aid. Gen­er­ously rinse the area with vine­gar to sta­bi­lize any un­fired ne­ma­to­cysts be­fore re­mov­ing ten­ta­cles and pro­ceed­ing with treat­ment.

While the st­ing of some species can cause life-threat­en­ing in­juries, the ma­jor­ity of jel­ly­fish in­juries range in sever­ity from al­most im­per­cep­ti­ble numb­ness to a mod­er­ate burn­ing sen­sa­tion fol­lowed by blis­ter­ing.

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