Common Jellyfish Sting Recommendations Do Not Work At All, Study Finds

Posted: Mar 21 2017, 9:57am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 21 2017, 10:06am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Common Recommendations for Jellyfish Sting Do Not Work at All, Study Finds
Credit: Angel Yanagihara

Researchers have found that most common remedies for jellyfish stings might actually be making the sting worse

Getting stung by a jellyfish can be a painful experience. And things can get even worse if the most recommended solution to relieve the pain turns out to be ineffective. That’s exactly what researchers from University of Hawai'i - Mānoa have found. When researchers investigated some of the most commonly recommended first aid actions such as rinsing with seawater or scraping away tentacles to reduce the severity of stings from two dangerous box jellyfish species, they found them ineffective. In fact, they worsen the sting.

“Anyone who Googles ‘how to treat a jellyfish sting’ will encounter authoritative web articles claiming the best thing to do is rinse the area with seawater, scrape away any remaining tentacles, and then treat the sting with ice,” said Dr. Angel Yanagihara, lead author of the study.

“We put those methods to the test in the lab, and found they actually make stings much, much worse.”

The tiny, clear, cube-shaped box jellyfish is one of the most deadly animals found in the oceans. They can sting hundreds of beachgoers a single day and produce venom more lethal than that of a black widow spider. Their sting can lead to many deaths every year. Even mild stings can cause severe pain or leave scares on skin.

To find out whether common remedies for relieving pain from jellyfish sting actually work, researchers traveled to Cape York Australia in December last year and experimented with different things like seawater or vinegar, credit card for scrapping or using ice packs on the affected area. Researchers were surprised to find that most of the commonly recommended quick actions did not work at all. Instead, they dramatically increased the severity of the stings.

Researchers also found that rinsing with vinegar or applying heat on burning skin proved more useful in easing the pain. That’s because vinegar contains such acidic chemicals that can neutralize the stinging sensation by deactivating the stinging cells in the venom.

Applying ice packs did not help. However, simply plucking tentacles off with tweezers reduced the damage done by injecting venom.

“Box jellies are incredibly dangerous animals. The more venom they inject, the more likely a victim is to suffer severe, even life threatening symptoms.” said Yanagihara. “The increases in venom injection and activity we saw in our study from methods like scarping and applying ice could mean the difference between life and death in a serious box jelly sting.”

Study researchers urge online medical sites, government agencies and other related officials to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their remedies before recommending them to public. So, that people do not experience negative consequences.

“It's all too easy to find bad advice on treating jelly stings on the internet,” said Dr. Christie Wilcox, co-author of the study. “Even in the peer-reviewed literature, there are a lot of examples of recommendations that are made in passing in discussion sections without any direct evidence to back them up, and then those just keep getting repeated and cited over and over even though they’re not based on rigorous, empirical scientific evidence.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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