Urine and Jellyfish: Should I Really Pee on a Jellyfish Sting?
For years people have been under the impression that if you get stung by a jellyfish, you are supposed to urinate on the other person as an antidote. Television shows and movies have made it a bit of a joke. For instance, there was a particular episode of Friends in which it was depicted that the only way to treat a jellyfish sting was to pee on the person.
Good news, for those of us who love ocean swimming but don’t like to get peed on, it isn’t the only treatment, and it actually has never been shown to work in studies. I’ve got some other home remedies that will help to prevent the burn and relieve symptoms faster.
How Do Jellyfish Sting?
Jellyfish have tentacles that are long and hang off of the bulbous “jelly” part and the tentacles are covered with nematocysts, which are coiled stingers that can become activated and cause a sting/burn. The nematocysts that are on the tentacles can continue to sting for hours and sometimes days after the tentacles are no longer attached to the jellyfish. The stinging ability is the jellyfish's defense mechanism and to ward off predators. It certainly wards me off!
What are the Treatments?
- Firstly, you need to remove the tentacles (and nematocysts) from your skin. DON’T use fresh water or your hands, that activates the nematocysts to activate and sting your skin. Try to brush the skin with a towel to remove the stingers from your skin, and pour salt water on your skin where the sting is occurring, it can help to get the nematocysts off without activating them.
- Try placing a towel soaked in warm water and vinegar (5% acetic acid solution).
- Unseasoned meat tenderizer or baking soda caked onto the areas can neutralize the stings (only leave on for about 15 minutes).
- If the stingers are still on the skin, put shaving cream on the skin and the tentacles will adhere to the shaving cream, and gently scrape the cream off with something hard-edged, but not sharp!
- If you get stings near your eyes, flush your eyes out with Artificial Tears (or other saline solutions).
- Any stings in your eyes, mouth, or that cause trouble breathing, extreme swelling, etc. you should seek immediate medical attention and call 911 (or the emergency number where you live).
- After the stingers are removed, you can take 50mg of benadryl (for children give a children’s dose- age and weight appropriate) and for adults taking Ibuprofen can also help ease the discomfort, along with a hydrocortisone cream to decrease the swelling.
- Ice packs can help to ease the pain.
- Time is the only true treatment that will heal the stings…
Why Doesn’t Urine Work as a Treatment?
Urine, depending on the person, is a majority of water, along with waste products from the body. If someone has diabetes, is dehydrated, on certain medications, on a low carb diet, etc. the waste products in their urine will be different and can actually make a jellyfish sting feel worse.
Ideally, if the urine is high in uric acid, it was thought that it would neutralize the stings, but that has never been shown as true in research.
These treatments have been studied, but unfortunately people's skin reacts differently, so you have to try them out and figure out what works best for you. The good news is that I gave you a bunch treatments to try. The bad news is that if you’ve had a sting and someone peed on you, you got peed on for no reason!
But, be safe, especially with children, and really look for jellyfish when swimming in warmer waters and ask locals about the ocean before swimming, just so you know what you’re getting into (pun intended). So be safe and stay away from those pesky jellyfish!
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