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A Real Remedy for Jellyfish Stings—That’s Not Pee

A Real Remedy for Jellyfish Stings—That’s Not Pee

When former Spice Girl Mel B. volunteered to appear on Running Wild with Bear Grylls in 2016 she knew she’d be in for an adventure of a lifetime. But she never thought it would involve urinating on Grylls’ hand to relieve a jellyfish sting. (They later ate the jellyfish!) As she obliged, he turned his back and the camera blurred the activity, so all viewers knew was that Grylls said it really eased the pain. Only later did he admit to People magazine that it didn’t do the trick.

That’s no surprise to scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the National University of Ireland, Galway. They have figured out what really works on three (and maybe more) varieties of jellyfish: the Portuguese man-of-war, the box jellyfish and the lion’s mane.

Their study in the journal Toxins looks at how to manage the sting of a lion’s mane jellyfish—it has more than 1,000 tentacles that can stretch to 15 feet long and badly injures up to 1,000 swimmers in the UK and Ireland annually. The answer? The same two-step process you would use for the other types:

  1. Use vinegar to wash off adhering tentacles. Sea water can stimulate venom activity, vinegar doesn’t.
  2. Soak in 113°F hot water for at least 40 minutes to limit venom activity. Ice offers no benefit.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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