What To Do Immediately After a Jellyfish Sting

One day I’ll share the full story of my suspected box jellyfish sting, but for today, here’s what to do immediately after sustaining a jellyfish sting in Indo-Pacific waters.

Happy Survivor Thursday! Don’t wait until you’ve been stung by a jellyfish to find out how to handle it. Let my personal experience and my many mistakes pave a pain free way for you, but first, back to Survivor Thursday.. I always struggle to begin these blog posts, but when I sat down for this one, I instantly thought ‘Survivor Thursdays!’ and then I thought, ‘where da fuq did I get that from?’ so I googled it. Way back in 2000, when I was obsessed with the show Survivor, it aired on Thursday nights, which jogged my memory, in middle and high school, I used to refer to every Thursday as Survivor Thursday. I reeeeally wanted to be on that show, but now I’ve moved on to dreams of winning Naked and Afraid – wish me luck and apparently this year they moved Survivor to Wednesdays, but I’m stickin’ with it. Happy Survivor Thursday, now here’s what to do immediately after you’ve been stung by a jellyfish in Indo-Pacific waters.

*WARNING* gross jellyfish sting images after the jump!

CALL 911 IF:

  • The sting covers more than half an arm or leg or if stung on the face or genitals.
  • The sting is from a box jellyfish.
  • The person is displaying an immediate severe reaction.
  • The person is in shock.

Holy sh!t you’ve just been stung. Here’s what to do :

  1. Get out of the water + relax – calmly get out of the water and lay down (in the shade if possible) on the beach. If you’re alone, immediately yell for someone to help you. Do not rinse or touch your sting.
  2. Rate your pain while your pals grab supplies – rate your pain on a scale of 1-10. Stay calm and be still. Have your helpers retrieve vinegar, a credit card or hotel key card and a t-shirt. Vinegar should be available in a hotel or restaurant’s first aid kit if you’re on an island or tropical beach.
  3. Decontaminate and remove tentacles – douse the sting with vinegar (for at least a minute) to reduce the toxic response. If there is no vinegar available, douse the sting in sea water, not fresh water. Now use the credit card to scrape out the tentacles. I recommend having a friend do it. Apply pressure and scrape from one end of the effected area to the other. Wipe off the tentacles (they’ll look like goo or snot) from the credit card and continue. Be extremely thorough or you’ll continue to get stung.
  4. Treat the pain – pain medication stat! If possible, soak the sting in hot water for twenty minutes.  If no hot water, apply a second vinegar rinse and soak a shirt in vinegar and rest it on the sting. Rate your pain. Is it going down, good! If not, it may be time to call emergency services just to be safe.
  5. Rest + Continued treatment – head to a clinic or pharmacy (in SE Asia you can get legit pain meds and other remedies at the pharmacy, no prescription needed) to buy any antihistamines, pain medication and antibiotic ointment. Clean open sores and apply ointment several times a day.

Do Not :

  • Immediately put ice on the sting.
  • Urinate on the sting.
  • Pour fresh water on the sting.
  • Touch or rub sting area.
  • Try to remove tentacles with hands or towel.
  • Apply meat tenderizer to sting area.

live seasoned box jellyfish sting

If we’re connected on instagram, you probably saw I was stung by a jellyfish during my most recent trip to Thailand. I wish I had known any of these tips. I realized what had happened maybe a minute after I felt the initial sting. I was calm, but clueless. I cursed my way up the beach, sat under a palm tree and begin pulling large stringy tentacles off my legs with my towel, something you’re not supposed to do. The pain was too much. I needed the tentacles off of me. I stood under the cold water of a nearby outdoor shower, another thing you’re specifically not supposed to do as evidenced by the amplified burning sensations all over my ankles.. I had no idea. Defeated, I sat down and that’s when the hotel manager, a bar patron and my friends came to my rescue. More on all that in a future post.


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