How do I care for someone who has been stung by marine life?

If you encounter someone who has a marine-life sting:
  • Get a lifeguard to remove the person from the water as soon as possible. If a lifeguard is not available, use a reaching assist, if possible. Avoid touching the person with your bare hands, which could expose you to the stinging tentacles.
  • For most jellyfish stings, irrigate the injured part with large amounts of vinegar as soon as possible for at least 30 seconds. This can help to remove the tentacles and stop the injection of venom. Vinegar works best to offset the toxin, but a baking soda slurry also may be used if vinegar is not available.
  • Do not rub the wound or apply fresh water or other remedies because this may increase pain.
  • Once the stinging action is stopped and tentacles removed, care for pain by hot-water immersion. Have the person take a hot shower, if possible, for at least 20 minutes. The water temperature should be as hot as can be tolerated (nonscalding) or about 113° F if the temperature can be measured.
  • If you know the sting is from a stingray, sea urchin, or spiny fish, flush the wound with tap water. Ocean water also may be used.
  • Keep the injured part still and soak the affected area in non-scalding hot water (as hot as the person can stand) for at least 20 minutes or until the pain goes away. If hot water is not available, packing the area in hot sand may have a similar effect if the sand is hot enough. Then carefully clean the wound and apply a bandage.
  • Watch for signs of infection and check with a healthcare provider to determine if a tetanus shot is needed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.