What Swimmers Need to Know About Jellyfish

Often when non-swimmers find out I’m an open water swimmer, their first question is, “Aren’t you afraid of sharks?”

Frankly, no, I’m not that worried about sharks. This is because I tend to avoid areas where sharks are likely to congregate (near seals, sea lions, and schooling fish’s favorite food) and I know that I am not actually in those environments. menu.

No, sharks don’t scare me, but jellyfish now haunt my nightmares.

Over the nearly 30 years I’ve been swimming long distances in open water, I’ve had the misfortune of getting entangled with many jellyfish, but they always make me cringe.

The worst was a failed attempt in the North Channel in 2013, when he endured a stinging onslaught of spiny lion’s mane jellyfish for more than five hours. Every time I got stung (and because I spent most of my time underwater swimming in a soup of disembodied nematocysts called nematocysts, there wasn’t an inch of my body that didn’t get stung), I felt… I did. The searing shock of electricity made the frigid water feel even colder. Eventually those stings came back to me and I had to quit the swim about halfway through.

No, I don’t consider sharks to be my enemy. But the brainless gelatinous jelly that ruins an otherwise great swim is the enemy I’m prepared to face every time I swim in the ocean.

do homework

If you know there may be jellyfish where you plan to swim, it’s a good idea to understand which species you’re most likely to encounter. Not all jellyfish stings feel or behave the same, and depending on the specifics of the sting, recommendations on how to soothe the sting may vary.

for example, cleveland clinic The hospital points out that applying vinegar or rubbing alcohol to the affected area is effective for stings from various types of jellyfish, but says, “Vinegar should not be used for Portuguese stings. “No,” he reported. This is because vinegar “may release more toxins from the nematocysts.”

What I would like to point out here is that Portugal’s Mano War Strictly speaking, it’s not a jellyfish. They are a type of siphonophore, a cluster of genetically identical entities that work together as a floating colony of pain. Nevertheless, they are often lumped together with jellies because their squishy bodies and behavior resemble many other types of jellies, and they can cause similar mayhem. Approximately 2,000 known species The number of jellyfish clogging the world’s oceans.

Avoidance is the key

As with most everything health-related, prevention is always better than cure. If you can avoid getting stung in the first place, that’s generally the best course of action.

To do this, avoid areas known to attract jellyfish. These brainless, spineless creatures drift with currents and winds, so if you swim in a closed area of ​​a larger harbor, for example, there may be more jellyfish in some local conditions than in others. There is a gender. Nearby beaches facing open ocean or beaches with stronger tidal currents that push these creatures.

When venturing into a swimming area for the first time, it’s a good idea to talk to locals (swimmers, boaters, lifeguards, anglers, and other waterway users) beforehand to learn what to look out for while out and about. It is important. There. Other open water swimmers will be able to tell you where jellyfish tend to congregate and where you can swim with less critters.

Some types of jellyfish reach their peak in early summer, while others prefer later seasons. Some surface in the evening, while others just float around all day. This goes back to knowing the main species you’re likely to encounter in a particular location, how they behave, and when they’re likely to disrupt your swimming session.

protection options

Wearing a long-sleeved wetsuit or rash guard can protect your skin from stings.There are also products such as Safe Sea (a type of sunscreen containing jellyfish sting ingredients).(blocking ingredients) may help create a barrier between the skin and the jellyfish’s stinging cells.

In some parts of the world, jellyfish nets help keep swimmers safe. Catches jellyfish before they jump into the swimming area, keeping the swimming area cleaner and safer for swimmers. Although these are less common in most parts of the United States, they can sometimes be seen surrounding beaches in Australia and other parts of the world, where particularly dangerous types of jelly may be present.

Treatment for jellyfish stings

If you are stung by a jellyfish, it is generally recommended to wash the area with salt water to remove any tentacles or nematocysts that may be attached to the skin. Avoid using fresh water as it may cause more poison to be released. You can also use the edge of a credit card to scrape off any remaining tentacles or bits.

After rinsing, you can soak the area in vinegar or rubbing alcohol, or soak it in hot water to try to denature the toxic proteins that cause pain and inflammation. You can also apply topical steroid creams such as hydrocortisone or soothing calamine lotion to reduce itching and inflammation. Ice, antihistamines such as Benadryl, and over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil may also help relieve some symptoms.

However, some swimmers have allergic reactions to jellyfish stings. If this happens, or if you have a very painful or severe reaction, seek immediate medical attention. Local lifeguards usually have some kind of treatment available for jellyfish stings on standby, but if you experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, muscle spasms, nausea, or vomiting, you should definitely go to the emergency room. You may also need to visit. or other signs of a severe allergic reaction after a jellyfish sting.

Before you ask, no, don’t pee on the sting. It’s an old wives’ tale and there is no scientific evidence to support its use. “In fact, urinating during a jellyfish sting can actually make the sting worse,” reports the Cleveland Clinic. So if you’ve been stung and are really in pain, skip the pee and go straight to the ER.

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