Recognising and Treating Jellyfish Stings in the UK – First Aid

Are you still peeing on people who’ve just been stung by jellyfish?! Save yourself some embarrassment and read this to get up to speed…

What are jellyfish?

Jellyfish usually live in the sea, although some types can be found in fresh water. They usually have an umbrella shaped body, with long thin tentacles hanging underneath. The tentacles are covered with poisonous sacks called nematocysts which can give a nasty sting if touched.

How do I recognise a jellyfish sting?

  • The casualty will usually feel severe pain immediately.
  • The casualty will usually develop an itchy rash and welts (raised, circular areas on the skin) where the tentacles have touched their skin.
  • Sometimes they feel numbness and tingling.

How do I treat a jellyfish sting?

  • Most UK jellyfish stings are pretty mild and can be treated easily.
  • If possible and safe to do so, move the casualty out of the water.
  • Keep them as still as possible to minimise the risk of toxins being released into the body.
  • Flush the area with sea water.
  • If possible, remove any tentacles from the skin using tweezers or something similar. Wear gloves if available.
  • Putting an ice pack on the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • If available, apply shaving cream to the affected area.This can help prevent the spread of toxins.
  • Use a credit card (or similar) to remove any nematocysts (the small poisonous sacks that may be on the skin)
  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used to treat pain and swelling.

In the UK, the current advice is that vinegar is no longer recommended for treating jellyfish stings because it can make things worse by activating unfired stinging cells. Other things like baking soda and alcohol should also be avoided. Don’t urinate on the sting. It’s unlikely to help and may make the situation worse.

Dial 999 or 112 if:

  • The casualty is having difficulty breathing.
  • The casualty is experiencing chest pain.
  • A large area of the body has been stung.
  • Sensitive areas such as the face or genitals have been stung.
  • The casualty is having a fit or seizure.
  • The casualty has severe redness/swelling.
  • The casualty is showing signs of anaphylaxis.
  • The casualty is very young or elderly.

Hopefully that’s cleared a few things up for you and now you have an idea of how to recognise and treat someone who’s been stung by a jellyfish in the UK.

This isn’t a substitute for first aid training. If you’d like to be able to deal with a variety of first aid issues with confidence, check out our 1 and 2 day Outdoor First Aid courses in Newcastle, the North East or wherever you need us! Get in touch for more information.