May 30 2017

What to Do When Jellyfish Crash Your Beach Day

Ah, the sun is shining, and you’re enjoying a beautiful day at Folly Beach. It’s hot (no surprise there!), so you decide to take a dip in the ocean. And there you are, swimming along and minding your own business when you feel it: the tell-tale burning that comes from getting stung by a jellyfish.

You make your way out of the water and away from the offending sea creature, but not before it leaves its mark on you . . . literally. It’s a major buzzkill for any beachgoer!

It can be tempting to freak out when you get stung by a jellyfish, because we’re accustomed to seeing melodramatic representations on our TVs and at the movies of deadly jellyfish such as the Portuguese man-of-war. Here’s the thing, though: most of the jellyfish you can find floating in Folly’s waters are relatively harmless.

Don’t get me wrong – getting stung is going to hurt like heck. Fortunately, though, it’s unlikely you’ll leave the beach with any kind of permanent damage.

At some point or another, we’ve probably all complained of jellyfish that we wish they’d just go away entirely. Kinda like mosquitoes, right? They can be such a nuisance that it’s hard to imagine they’re good for anything. But the truth is they are an important part of the marine ecosystem.

Not only do they feed on smaller floating organisms (and sometimes even other jellyfish), but they serve as a primary part of many other marine creatures’ diets – think sunfish and sea turtles. Actually, it’s essentially for these very reasons that jellyfish have the ability to sting.

They use their specialized, envenomed stinging cells to paralyze or kill the smaller organisms they eat. They also use it as a defense mechanism, although this isn’t technically what happens when humans get stung. That’s more of an accidental stinging. A sting-and-swim, if you will.

Interestingly, the severity of a jellyfish sting depends on several factors. You probably know that one of those factors is the type of jellyfish, but what you may not know is that some of the other factors that come into play are the sensitivity level of the victim to the venom and even the thickness of the victim’s skin (yes, really).

The types of jellyfish you might run into at Folly include the cannonball jelly, lion’s mane jelly, mushroom jelly, southern moon jelly, and sea nettle – none of which represent a real hazard to humans, although they do pack a painful punch.

Even though their stings are rare here, there are two other types of jellyfish that inhabit our waters and prove more problematic: the sea wasp, or box jelly, and the infamous Portuguese man-of-war. Stings from these jellyfish are severe enough that they sometimes merit hospitalization.

What do you do if you get stung by a jellyfish during an otherwise carefree day at Folly?

First things first, you need to remove any tentacles that may still be stuck to your skin. Repeat after me: tentacles are bad. As long as the tentacle is making contact with your skin, it will continue to discharge venom.

If you want to be as prepared as possible when you head to the beach, toss any of the following in your beach bag: vinegar, sugar, or meat tenderizer. These substances are known for taking some of the sting out of jellyfish encounters. Contrary to popular belief, urine isn’t a good idea as it can actually increase the pain. So when that heroic friend offers to pee on you, you can simply say no thank you.

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