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Watch out – Jellyfish ahead!

The “jellyfish season” is upon us, and the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center has already had several cases of jellyfish burns and stings. Dr. Jalal Ashkar, Director of the Emergency Medicine Department, explains the dos and don’ts if you were stung.

Anyone at the beach in the last few weeks encountered a not insignificant number of jellyfish – some on the beaches and some can be seen even in the shallow water. The jellyfish is a member of the Cnidaria family, made of a jelly-like substance, and a general structure similar to an umbrella or bell, with the “clapper” made of several tentacles with stinging cells. There are several species of jellyfish. The most common in our area is the nomad jellyfish, with its characteristic multiple mouth arms that look like threads. These mouth arms contain syringe-like stinging cells, with which the jellyfish paralyzes its prey. The venom is stored in the stinging cells and acts at the moment of release. When the mouth arms encounter a living being, the small “syringes” shoot and inject the living being with the venom. “In cases of jellyfish stings, most people will feel localized pain and burning and some redness will appear on the skin, sometimes accompanied by itching. If the area becomes infected, there can be symptoms of fever, lethargy, and muscle pain,” explains Dr. Jalal Ashkar, Director of the Emergency Medicine Department at Hillel Yaffe.


Here are several recommendations for dos and don’ts if you were stung by a jellyfish:


Jellyfish on the beach

  1. Remove the jellyfish/ jellyfish parts/ stinging cells from the skin, using a stick or piece of plastic. 
  2. It is recommended to first wash the area with saltwater and then it can be washed under the tap for a few minutes, without rubbing the affected area. 
  3. Vinegar can neutralize the effect of the protein (the venom). Vinegar is usually available at the lifeguard’s station. If available, it is worth pouring some on the sting (some people claim it doesn’t always help). 
  4. Cream, such as aloe vera and Fenistil, or tablets for local relief of the pain and stinging, can be used..
  5. If there is absolutely nothing else available to relieve the pain, urine can be used since it is acidic and may offer temporary relief. 
  6. The greatest danger from jellyfish is a severe allergic reaction. If the person stung, particularly if s/he is a child, develops breathing difficulties, sudden hoarseness, nausea, vomiting, extreme weakness or confusion, bring them for immediate medical treatment. 
  7. In cases of unusual localized swelling, or secondary infection in the area of the sting, accompanied by redness and blistering, bring the patient to the emergency room for medical examination. 
  8. If the sting is in a sensitive area, such as the face, testicles, or large areas such as the leg or arm, or if the symptoms worsen and there is no relief after time has passed, bring the patient to the emergency room for medical examination.

What not to do: 

  1. Don’t wash the area with tap or fresh water, since they can make the localized reaction worse and spread the venom over the skin. 
  2. Don’t scratch or rub the area of the sting, which can make the situation worse. 
  3. Don’t wash the area with alcohol.
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