About Florida: Safety Tips For Jellyfish

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Jellyfish (credit: ironic tonic)

Jellyfish (credit: ironic tonic)

Florida News: Jellyfish season in Florida

Late summer through early fall marks Florida’s unofficial jellyfish season. This is the time of year when Florida beachgoers should be on the lookout for gelatinous orbs floating around the beaches and to try to avoid painful jellyfish stings.

There are many different types of jellies around Florida from the moon jelly and the cannonball jelly, which administer minor stings, to the sea nettle which packs quite a painful punch and of course, there’s the dangerous Man of War. The Man of War is not technically a jellyfish and it’s definitely not something you want to encounter. It is easily identified, though, as its body floats on top of the water like a great translucent balloon.

Purple flags

Always watch out for purple flags flying from lifeguard towers around Florida beaches. They signify dangerous marine life, such as sharks, sea lice or jellyfish. The absence of a flag DOES NOT mean there is an absence of danger, so ultimately it is your responsibility to watch out for anything in the water that may harm you.

How do jellyfish sting?

Jellyfish sting to paralyze their pray and as a defense mechanism. They aren’t intelligent enough creatures to sting someone on purpose, but their tentacles can inject pain even when they’re detached from the jellyfish.

Jellyfish tentacles are covered with nematocysts, which contain threads of protein-based toxins. When a jellyfish comes in contact with another creature, a trigger shoots these stinging barbs into its victim, almost working like a spear gun. And it can be quite painful.

How to treat a jellyfish sting

  • Rinse the area with sea water – do NOT rinse the area with fresh water.
  • Flush the area with vinegar. Bring some to the beach with you during jellyfish season and you’ll make friends easily. If you don’t have vinegar in your beach bag, ask a lifeguard.
  • Meat tenderizer can also break down the proteins left on the skin by a jellyfish. Look for a brand that lists “papain” as the main ingredient and put some of that in your beach safety kit.
  • Treat the area with a topical hydrocortisone cream that will relieve itching.
  • Use a gloved hand or tweezers to remove tentacles that you can see.
  • Do not rub the area.
  • Watch or shortness of breath and other signs of allergies. If one presents, call 911.

The myth that peeing on a jellyfish sting will relieve the sting may work in a pinch but vinegar will work better.

Tell us…

Have you been stung by a jellyfish?

Photo credit: ironic tonic

  • http://twitter.com/rt8ca Robert Tellier

    Great tips for those heading to Florida this fall. I’ve been bitten by jellyfish in British Columbia and know how they can sting! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jim Dee

    I was snorkeling in the Keys last week and there were Jellies everywhere. Easy to out swim awesome to watch but certainly a distraction.

  • Jim Dee

    I was snorkeling in the Keys last week and there were Jellies everywhere. Easy to out swim awesome to watch but certainly a distraction.