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Three children running into the ocean

How to Treat and Prevent Jellyfish Stings

Author: CHKD Medical Group
Published Date: Monday, August 7, 2017

Jellyfish are found in every ocean and along coastlines around the world. Though they are slow swimmers and not aggressive by nature, they will sting if accidentally bumped by an unsuspecting child (or adult). Jellyfish stings are painful, but most are not emergencies. If your child is stung, remain calm and reassure him that he will be okay.

Did you know?

  • Jellyfish are not actually fish. They are invertebrates, a term that means animals with no backbones. Not all jellyfish are clear – they can be vibrant colors like red and orange. Some can even produce their own light, an ability called bioluminescence.
  • Jellyfish tentacles can be as long as 10 feet and can contain thousands of stingers. When touched, a jellyfish’s stingers will pierce a person’s skin and release venom that often causes painful symptoms.
  • A beached jellyfish can still sting. Even a dying jellyfish outside of the water or a detached tentacle floating in the water can release venom. Steer clear of jellyfish when you can, no matter where you find them.


Follow these tips if you or a loved one is stung:

  • To treat a sting, use sea water not fresh water. To treat a jellyfish sting, rinse the affected skin with sea water. Do not pour fresh water over the area or use human urine. Do not apply pressure bandages, meat tenderizer, alcohol, ethanol or ammonia to the affected area.
  • Don’t touch the area with your bare hands. After you rinse with sea water, try to remove the remaining stingers with something other than your bare hands such as tweezers, a towel or gloves. You may also want to cover the area with shaving cream or baking soda paste and scrape with a flat-edged object like a credit card.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to treat the pain and anti-itch cream or an antihistamine can help treat itching.
  • If your child is experiencing symptoms of a severe allergic reaction such as trouble breathing or swallowing or they have had a severe allergic reaction in the past, call 911 immediately. If blisters appear, severe pain lasts for more than two hours or the redness/rash remains for more than two weeks, call your CHKD pediatrician. If you have any questions, please contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.


The following tips may help you avoid jellyfish stings:

  • Get information about conditions. Talk to lifeguards, local residents or officials with a local health department before swimming or diving in coastal waters, especially in areas where jellyfish are common.
  • Avoid water during jellyfish season. Stay out of the water when jellyfish numbers are high.
  • Use protective lotions. Some clinical evidence shows that anti-jellyfish sting protective lotions may result in fewer stings after exposure to jellyfish tentacles. It may be especially helpful to people at high risk of stings, such as children or people with existing medical conditions.
  • Wear a protective suit. When swimming or diving in areas where jellyfish stings are possible, wear a wet suit or other protective clothing. Diving stores sell protective "skin suits" or "stinger suits" made of thin, high-tech fabric. Consider protective footwear as stings can also occur while wading in shallow water.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.