Warm weather drew huge crowds to central Florida’s beaches this weekend, but the tides also brought trouble: jellyfish. More than 600 people were treated for jellyfish stings this weekend, according to beach safety officials.
Lifeguards treated 107 people for stings on Saturday and almost quintuple that number on Sunday with 523 injuries, according to the Associated Press.
An additional 180 people were treated for stings from what appear to be moon jellyfish on Monday, bringing the grand total to 810, according to Tammy Malphurs, Volusia County Beach Safety Captain and Public Information Officer.
Malphurs said while it wasn’t a beach record, the high number of stings was a result of the large crowds.
“This is a lot for one weekend,” she said.
An estimated 150 million people are stung by jellyfish globally each year. In the United States alone, 500,000 stings in the Chesapeake Bay and up to 200,000 stings in Florida waters are estimated to occur annually.
Malphurs said the Volusia County beaches, which includes Daytona Beach, are safe, but if you don’t want to get stung you should stay out of the water.
“The only way to protect yourself is just not go in the water,” she said. “Because you really can’t see them while you’re in the water, until it’s too late.”
Depending on the type of jelly, a sting can be anywhere from mildly painful to deadly. Box jellyfish alone are responsible for more deaths than sharks worldwide.
There were no serious reactions to the stings in Florida, Malphurs said, and the injuries were treated with white vinegar.
If you get stung, the best thing to use is a topical treatment like Sting No More. If you don’t have any on hand, best practice is to rinse the area with vinegar and then have a friend carefully remove any lingering tentacles or stingers with tweezers according to a study published by two researchers from the university of University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
When a jellyfish stings, it’s kind of like getting stuck with thousands of tiny little needles that inject you with venom when triggered. The study found that vinegar chemically prevents the stingers, called cnidae, from injecting you with more venom.
There are a lot of myths and conflicting information out there about out about how to treat jellyfish stings. Common supposed fixes include peeing on the sting, rinsing the area with seawater, covering the sting in a baking soda “slurry” or shaving cream, or simply scraping tentacles off with a credit card or razor.
These solutions are ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. Trying to scrape the tentacles off, for example, can put pressure on the cnidae stuck in your skin causing them to release more venom.
While sterilizing the area with alcohol might seem like a good idea, doing so can also trigger the tentacles to discharge more venom, the study found.
After removing the tentacles, the study recommends treating the area with hot packs or hot water immersion for 45 minutes to help the pain and slow the progress of the venom. While it may seem counter intuitive, using ice can actually make the sting much, much worse.
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