Whenever I visit an aquarium I will spend the longest time of my visit staring at jellyfish while absolutely mesmerized.
Their see-through bodies, pretty colors, bioluminescence, and graceful swimming is a truly beautiful sight.
However, seeing these beautiful jellyfish swimming right next to me as I am enjoying the beach is a completely different story.
I don’t remember how old I was the first, and only time I was stung by a jellyfish but the memory of the painful blister it caused is enough to make me shiver.
This memory is also the reason why today I want to share with you a very helpful guide for a beach and ocean lover like yourself: how to avoid being stung by a jellyfish.
Read along as I give you helpful tips to avoid these beautiful, but potentially painful, creatures during your next visit to the beach as well as pointers regarding what to do in case you get accidentally stung.
How To Actually Avoid Being Stung By A Jellyfish
So even though it is impossible to control all the variables there are some actions you can take to actively minimize the risk of being stung by a jellyfish.
Let’s break them down:
1. Stay out of the water if jellyfish are highly concentrated in an area
This might sound drastic but if it is reported that there is a large swarm of jellyfish currently close to shore the smartest move is to avoid the water altogether until the beautiful troublemakers leave.
These swarms are not uncommon because jellyfish need to swim very close together in order for reproduction to take place.
This is because males must release the sperm into the water so it is of vital importance that both sexes are close together.
2. Avoid the water if there is on-shore wind that is unusually strong
Onshore wind is that which blows from the ocean onto land which inevitably will have the currents and waves crashing by the shore, aka the place where you are more likely to be during your trip to the beach.
While the wind itself is not an issue you must keep in mind that although jellyfish actively try to swim AGAINST the water current if the wind is too intense it means the current might be too strong for some “jellies” who will be helplessly carried towards the shore.
3. DO NOT pick up or attempt to touch a jellyfish
This doesn’t really need an explanation, does it? Just to be safe, I will remind you to never attempt to pick up a jellyfish if you encounter one while swimming, diving, or snorkeling; no matter how dreamy, pretty, or magical it looks.
4. Don’t touch or pick up a dead jellyfish
If you’re walking on the beach and encounter a dead jellyfish washed up on shore don’t assume that just because it’s dead it can’t hurt you.
Jellyfish venom is still very present in their dead bodies so you will get a painful sting if you pick it up.
5. Wear protective clothing
The stingers on jellies are small and can not normally puncture through clothing so wearing protective clothing will provide a reliable barrier to avoid being stung. I will tell you more about this in a bit.
6. Wear jellyfish repellent
I know, I know…this sounds like one of those products you see on tv, and just know it’s a scam.
However several studies have been done on the “Safe Sea” sunscreen lotion with jellyfish repellent and the results are quite promising.
If you’re still gonna buy sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun why not buy this 2-in-1 product and give it a try?
Are Jellyfish Dangerous To Be Around?
Most jellyfish stings will result in temporary pain and discomfort but don’t pose a major threat. Nevertheless, there are a few species, such as the box jellyfish, whose sting has the potential to kill an adult.
Taking this into account the short answer would be yes, jellyfish can be dangerous.
Still, there is no need to panic and start canceling your beach vacation plans.
While it is not uncommon to experience a close encounter with a jellyfish if you’re a regular beach goer it is very unlikely that it will be more than just a shortlived, painful annoyance.
A few things you can do to ease your mind and be better prepared are researching in advance how likely it will be that there are jellyfish during your visit and also what species of jellies occur in the area where you’re going.
This way if you do get stung you will be better equipped to act knowing exactly what to do to immediately alleviate the discomfort as different species require different treatments.
What To Do If A Jellyfish Touches You?
If the top part of a jellyfish touches you while swimming chances are you won’t even notice as the stingers are on the tentacles.
If the tentacles touch you you will feel pain immediately and here is a step-by-step of what you should do:
Rinse the affected area with plenty of SEA WATER
Notice how I capitalized sea water? Using fresh water favors the development and diffusion of neurotoxins present in the tentacles of the jellyfish.
Do NOT use vinegar, alcohol, or ammonia unless you are certain of what species of jellyfish stung you and this is a proven treatment method for it, otherwise, it will be detrimental to your recovery.
Remove the tentacles that are on the area (if any)
DO NOT do it with your bare hands. Use tweezers, thick gloves, or a towel.
Apply shaving cream or baking soda and shave the area
If you don’t have shaving cream at hand you can make a paste of baking soda with (sea) water and apply that to the affected area instead. After a few minutes shave the area with a razor or the border of a credit card.
Treat pain and itching with over-the-counter products
If the pain is too strong and not improving seek medical treatment.
If you or someone else is stung in the genital area, near the eyes, in the mouth, or in a large area of skin seek medical assistance.
If the affected person starts having an allergic reaction (wheezing, hives, trouble breathing, etc.) this is a medical emergency, and help needs to be sought right away.
Can Jellyfish Sting Through Clothes?
Jellyfish stingers are small and can not puncture through clothing. You can even purchase “stinger suits” which are specially designed to protect you against this nuisance and will provide more coverage than your average clothing.
Of course, depending on the suit, some body parts will still be exposed (hands and face for example) but the risk of getting stung will be much lower.
Is Being Stung By Jellyfish Common?
Yes. Around 150 million jellyfish stings occur worldwide every year. I know it sounds like a huge number but when you take into account that there is an average of 400 million beachgoers yearly in the US alone you will see there is just a 37.5% chance you will get stung.
Even though these mystical sea ballerinas pose a threat to beachgoers every year there is no reason to fear the ocean or become hateful towards these creatures.
You and I just need to take the necessary precautions to ensure that a special visit to the beach is always enjoyable.
Until next time.
I am a lover of everything nature and animal related with over 15 years of experience in the field of wildlife rescue and education. Currently living in Colombia working with wild and domestic animals and spending all my free time writing about them 🙂