How are jellyfish stings treated?

Most people do not need to see a doctor for a jellyfish sting. Symptoms of a jellyfish sting usually go away after a few hours. Sometimes, a rash remains from a few days to two weeks.

You can treat mild jellyfish stings with the following steps:

  1. If you are stung at the beach or in the ocean, pour sea water onto the part of your body that was stung. Do not use fresh water.
  2. Use tweezers to remove any tentacles you see in your skin.
  3. Next, apply vinegar or rubbing alcohol to the affected area to stop the burning feeling and the release of the toxin.
  4. After you have poured vinegar on the site, apply shaving cream or a mixture of baking soda and sea water. When this is dry, scrape the mixture off with a credit card.
  5. To help reduce the pain, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. You can also use an ice pack or hot water to help with the pain and swelling.

Your doctor may treat more serious jellyfish stings with medications to relieve pain, neutralize the venom’s effects (antivenin) and reduce the itching and rash (antihistamine).

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/22/2018.

References

  • Cegolon L, Heymann WC, Lange JH, Mastrangelo G. Jellyfish Stings and Their Management: A Review. Mar Drugs. 2013 Feb; 11(2): 523–550.
  • National Wildlife Federation. Summertime First Aid: Jellyfish Stings. Accessed 5/23/2018.
  • Wilcox CL, Yanagihara AA. Heated Debates: Hot-Water Immersion or Ice Packs as First Aid for Cnidarian Envenomations? Toxins (Basel). 2016 Apr; 8(4): 97.
  • Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Jellyfish Stings. Accessed 5/23/2018.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy