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First Aid for Jellyfish Sting

Last updated March 5, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

A jellyfish is sea creature with a ‘jelly-like’ body and long, trailing tentacles. The tentacles have stinging barbs that can inject a toxin into the body.

What is Jellyfish Sting?

A jellyfish is sea creature with a ‘jelly-like’ body and long, trailing tentacles. The tentacles have stinging barbs that can inject a toxin into the body.

What are the Causes of Jellyfish Sting?

Most common causes of Jellyfish Sting include (but are not limited to):

  • Exposure to jellyfish in the ocean or at the beach; swimmers, surfers, divers, and beachgoers are at risk
  • Wading in ocean waters without suitable protective clothing
  • Swimming during jellyfish bloom (or jellyfish season)
  • Visiting beaches where jellyfish are common
  • Handling jellyfish, either alive or dead

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Jellyfish Sting?

Signs and symptoms of Jellyfish Stings vary according to the type of species the individual is exposed to and the amount of toxin injected. The symptoms may be mild or severe and could include:

  • Mild cases:
    • Itching
    • Burning sensation
    • Pain
    • Tingling sensation, numbness
    • Swelling of the area
    • Rashes on the skin: In many cases, there could be a pattern on the stung area, depending on the type of jellyfish species and contact of skin with the tentacles
  • Severe symptoms may be systemic and may additionally include:
    • Breathing difficulties
    • Rhythm abnormalities of the heart
    • Body aches, joint aches
    • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
    • Fever, chills, and headaches

How is First Aid administered for Jellyfish Sting?

If a Jellyfish Sting (or sting or bite of a marine creature) is suspected, it is always important to call your local emergency helpline number (or 911 in the US) without any delay, and provide as much information as possible, even if the individual does not have any symptoms.

Until medical help arrives:

  • Move the individual away from the water or incident spot
  • Make a note of the exact time of the incident and notify the emergency medical personnel accordingly
  • Try to remove the stinger (if visible), by gently scraping the site using a hard-edged object (either metal or plastic) or a pair of tweezers
  • Use seawater to wash the area, which can help deactivate the remaining toxin
  • Try to identify or locate the marine animal (only if safely possible) and keep the medical personnel informed
  • Administer antivenom as soon as possible, if available
  • DO NOT give anything orally to the individual
  • Unless directed by the physician, DO NOT give any medication

The following popular first aid therapies should be avoided:

  • The use of human urine
  • Use of pressure bandages
  • Do not pour alcohol 

Who should administer First Aid for Jellyfish Sting?

The individual himself/herself or someone nearby may begin to administer First Aid. Call your local emergency helpline number or 911 immediately as mentioned before.

What is the Prognosis of Jellyfish Sting?

The prognosis of Jellyfish Sting is dependent on the potency of the toxin, the severity of reaction, and timely manner in which treatment is administered.

How can Jellyfish Sting be Prevented?

A few helpful tips to prevent Jellyfish Sting include:

  • Avoid making an attempt to touch or handle marine animals unnecessarily, even if they are pets
  • Do not ignore warnings of lifeguards or health officials at the beach
  • Wear protective clothing if you plan to swim or dive in jellyfish infested areas
  • Generally be aware or watchful of the waters you are in (to the extent possible)
  • Do not handle dead jellyfish, since they can also sting through a trigger mechanism

What are certain Crucial Steps to be followed?


  • Call your local emergency helpline number (or 911) for help
  • Remove the victim immediately from the water
  • Wear gloves while removing stingers
  • When in doubt, wash the affected area with seawater and not freshwater
  • If possible, use hot water to repeatedly wash the wound


  • Do not hesitate to call your emergency help services
  • Do not remove stingers without wearing suitable protective hand gloves
  • Do not medicate the individual, unless advised by a healthcare professional
  • Do not move the affected region of the body too much
  • Do not run or exercise which might increase the circulation of toxin in the body
  • Do not elevate the affected area above the heart level, since this can also increase circulation of the toxin

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Dec. 26, 2015
Last updated: March 5, 2018