Jellyfish: What To Know and What To Do
If you know just a little about a jellyfish, you know that they can sting you and it can be very painful. We have teamed up with Isla Surf School of Charleston, South Carolina to cover the most common types of found on the east coast of the United States, and what to do in case you get stung by one.
Jellyfish can be found all over the world. Some are popular in certain areas compare to others. But in general, they are coming close to shore when the wind is onshore. Usually they also come when you see seaweed on the beach. When stung by a jellyfish, you want to remove the venom as fast as possible. There are various ways to do so such as putting vinegar, scrapping a credit card on the location, soaking in hot water, and the famous one peeing on it (yes that is a thing, and most likely the most effective one).
Jellyfish are some of the most beautiful ocean’s creature. They make their way across vast oceans without having a brain or nervous system to guide them. But often times, their paths leads them ending up close to the shallow areas where waves are crashing on the sand.
Here are some common jellyfish found on the East Coast on America
The Moon Jellyfish
The moon jellyfish with scientific name being Aurelia aurita. It is found in most oceans throughout the world but primarily in inshore regions such as harbors and estuaries. Because of a limited locomotion, this specie of jellyfish rather stay in temperature waters with regular currents that will help hem push through the water column.
Portuguese Man o’ War Jellyfish
This jellyfish is so beautiful! It’s scientific named being Physalia physalis is found on the East Coast but is not truly a jellyfish. Exact jellyfish are single multicellular animals, whereas the Portuguese Man o’ Wars are contained of colonies of specialized individual animals, kind of like corals. The Portuguese Man o’ War relies on currents, tides, and wind to be able to catch its inflated “sail”. That is how it is taking onward to food sources and often ends up on the beach. It is also a surface resident. The Portuguese Man o’ War jellyfish has tentacles that can stretch from 10-30 meters or 32-98 feet in length. The tentacles are loaded with venom-filled nematocysts that gives out a very painful sting for the least if in contact with a human body. The tentacles venom nematocysts remain active and alive even when the jellyfish is dead. So next time you see one on the each, dead or not, do NOT touch it!
Atlantic Sea Nettle Jellyfish
The Atlantic sea nettle or also called Chrysaora quinquecirrha in scientific terms. This jellyfish primarily lives in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as some parts of the Indo-Pacific Ocean. This jellyfish is a slightly larger jellyfish species. It not only feeds on plankton but also on comb jellyfish, which are not true jellyfish. The Atlantic sea nettle jellyfish also feeds on eggs, worms, crustaceans, minnows, other species of jellyfish, and mosquito larvae. Preys are submissive through the use of thousands of microscopic venom-filled cnidocytes located on each trailing tentacles of the sea nettle. These tentacles and venom can cause a very painful rash when in contact to human skins is triggered.
The cannonball jellyfish with scientific name being Stomoluphus meleagris is the less threatening jellyfish to humans. On the other hand, it can deliver a stunning blow to close prey and predators. When bothered, the cannonball jellyfish releases a toxin that can hurt smaller fish in the near area and deter most predators. Unfortunately, the cannonball jellyfish is the primary prey for the leatherback sea turtle. The sea turtle who does not seem to be affected by the cannonball jellyfish’s defense mechanism.
By the Wind Sailor Jellyfish
The by the wind sailor jellyfish is another one of those jellyfish that is not a true jellyfish, but a colonial species like the Portuguese Man o’ War. Actually the by the win sailor jellyfish functions the exact same way the Portuguese Man o’ War does. They both use currents, tides, and wind to cross the big open sea. With tentacles trailing below itself to trap and envenomate prey. While the toxins found in the by the wind sailor jellyfish is not usually harmful to humans in contact with it, it can cause some irritation of the skin and eyes if contacted with the venom.
Why So Many Jellyfish?
Jellyfish follow water waters at all times. So as the temperature goes up, more jellyfish appear. Mid-80’s is when a lot of jellyfish are seen according to the National Weather Service. Also when the winds are onshore, the jellyfish will be pushed by the wind making them get closer to shore and humans.
What To Do If Ever Stung By A Jellyfish?
Good news! Even though a jellyfish sting hurts, most are not life threatening, so you don’t want to worry too much about that. Even if you know exactly what to do, it is always better to check with medical professionals. If you are in a guarded area, go to the lifeguards and they will help you.
*If you are not in a guarded area, do what you can and if really bad get is checked by a doctor.
Here are some jellyfish sting first-aid tips that we recommend you doing right away:
Apply Vinegar to the sting
Soak the sting with vinegar. This will deactivate the stinging cells and rinse the tentacles away, which will prevent it from spreading all over the place. It is always good to carry a little tiny bottle of vinegar with you when going to the beach. You might end up being the hero on the beach!
Pluck the visible tentacles
If you see some tentacles on the affected area, grab some tweezers and pluck it away. DO NOT use your hands to do this, it will sting you too! If you do not have tweezers, do not scrape off the tentacles with sand or anything else, it will only cause it to spread more venom by doing that.
Soak in hot water
Soak the affected area in hot water for 20 to 45 minutes. The temperature of the water should vary from 110 to 113-degree Fahrenheit, if no thermometers are available, test the water with your hand. The water shouldn’t be scalding hot, but it should feel quite hot.
Scrape with a credit card
Not a lot of people have heard about this technique. Once you have cleaned up the affected jellyfish sting area. Grab a credit card. Once you have your credit card in hand, scrape the affected skin (it should have little “pimples” looking dots all over the area) with the credit card. Press hard and scrape it for a good 2-3 minutes.
What NOT to do:
- Rinse with saltwater
- Make your friend pee on you. Even though this might actually work, it is not 100% true. It all depends on the hydration level of the individual. The more dehydrated, the better it will actually work.
- Rinse with cold water
- Put sand on it
- Pluck the tentacles with your hands
- Try to remove the jellyfish with your hands
Follow the first aid tips listed above to treat your jellyfish sting. Remember that if it worsens, or show symptoms of an allergic reaction, consult a doctor immediately. Do not wait too long, or it might have chances of it spreading everywhere. There is always a chance you might of gotten stung by the Portuguese Man o’ War and that one can cause more severe pain and injury. However, most of the times, a jellyfish sting can be treated with the tips listed above and an oral pain killer.
Do not let the fear of jellyfish stings get to you! It should not keep you away from surfing or enjoying the great ocean! Go have fun and if it does happen, now you are aware of what to do and what not to do in case of a sting. Even thought, it can restraint your day, it should not ruin it at all! Go to the beach and enjoy the waves!