jellyfish swimming in the water

Getting stung by a jellyfish is a common and sometimes painful summer experience. How do you treat these injuries — and what shouldn’t you do?

Those are questions Francis Counselman, MD, The Chidester Endowed Chair of Emergency Medicine and Chair of Emergency Medicine, recently answered in a story.

First, says Dr. Counselman, it’s important to remember that most jellyfish are harmless.

"People see jellyfish and automatically think they're venomous," Dr. Counselman says. In reality, “out of some ten thousand jellyfish species, only 1% actually pose a threat to humans.”

The story goes on to detail some best practices in first aid care for the most common sting injuries —pour vinegar on the sting site, soak the skin in hot water and treat with over-the-counter medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and hydrocortisone cream, among other tried-and-true tactics. The story also outlined things you shouldn’t do when faced with a sting, including urinating on the injury and rubbing the area with a towel.

Finally, a mild reaction can include “pain, itchiness and a rash,” however, "if you start to have systemic symptoms”— e.g. stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, muscle pain/spasms, drowsiness/fainting, difficulty breathing and swallowing — “you really need to go to the ER to get checked out," says Dr. Counselman.