DON’T Try These Three Hawaii Jellyfish Cures

Portuguese Man of War jellyfish on beach
Hawaii Aloha Travel > Blog > DON’T Try These Three Hawaii Jellyfish Cures

Would you know what to do if you were stung by a jellyfish while in Hawaii? If not, you would probably “Google” how to ease the pain. BUT, WAIT! How do you know which “cures” are right — and which will make the pain even worse?

Turns out, two scientists recently refuted the claims of some of the most common Hawaii jellyfish sting “cures.” And, those scientists came right from the University of Hawaii.

According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the researchers have determined that three of the most common remedies are actually wrong — really wrong! In fact, the researchers say the remedies will only exacerbate an already serious problem.

We blog about Hawaii because we love Hawaii.

So, what are the three remedies mentioned in the research?

Put an ice pack on the stung area

Why it’s wrong:

Angel Yanagihara, lead author of the report and assistant research professor at the UH Pacific Biosciences Research Center and the UH medical school, told the paper,“People want to apply ice because of the burning sensation,” Yanagihara said in an interview. “But they don’t understand that by adding ice you’re preserving that venom, so you are going to make things far worse.”

Experts say you should not put ice on a jelly sting because it will only preserve the toxin and make the sting worse.

Rinse the inflamed area with seawater

Why it’s wrong:

Yanagihara told the Honolulu Star Advertiser, “Applying seawater will massively spread the sting area,” she added. “And applying ice increases the ultimate devastation to the tissue zone by orders of magnitude.”

Scrape box jelly tentacles off your skin with a credit card

Why it’s wrong:

The paper reports that “the researchers found that scraping tentacles with a credit card had disastrous results: It vastly increased the number of stinging cells discharged.

According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the researchers experimented with a wide range of treatments for box jelly stings. They included dousing with fresh water, seawater, vinegar or a baking soda slurry; applying ice or heat; scraping off tentacles with a plastic card or plucking them with tweezers; and using Sting No More spray and cream.

What did they find? The research shows that rinsing the sting area with vinegar and then applying hot water or a heat pack was the best solution in the field using readily available items.

One of the best ways to ease the pain of a jelly sting is to apply vinegar with hot water.

Yanagihara told the newspaper that first aid for box jellyfish stings requires a two-pronged strategy: First, the tentacles and their stinging cells, which she describes as “tiny ticking time bombs,” must be inactivated and removed. Second, the venom that is already in the flesh must be treated.

“Less than 1 percent of stinging cells on a tentacle actually fire when you’re first stung,” Wilcox, the co-author. “So anything you do that moves the tentacles or adherent stinging cell capsules around has the potential to increase the amount of venom injected into you by many fold.”

Since the journal article reports that, worldwide, box jellyfish are responsible for more deaths than sharks each year, the research is of optimum importance.

“The increases in venom injection and activity we saw in our study from methods like scraping and applying ice could mean the difference between life and death in a serious box jelly sting,” Yanagihara told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

If you are allergic to Hawaii jellyfish stings, it’s important you let your group leader know if you’ve booked any water related activities. That way, your guide can have a first aid kit on-site for any incidents.

Above all, know how to treat a Hawaii jellyfish sting that won’t cause even more pain!

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