You've probably heard that you're supposed to urinate on a jellyfish sting, or perhaps pour alcohol on the affected area before scraping the stingers away. But a recent study suggests most of those home remedies, including the golden shower, don't work. And some of them can actually make things much worse for the victim.
Photo by Megan Kroger.
The study, which was recently published in the journal Toxins, took a thorough look at those tips and tested their validity. For starters, don't pee on yourself or your friends if there's a stinging incident. Urine does contain urea, which helps with tentacle removal, but your pee is too diluted for it to work. Plus, the salt in the urine might trigger more nematocysts to fire into the skin. Not good. All peeing on someone is going to do is embarrass everyone involved.
Scraping away the tentacles is a bad idea as well, as pressure can trigger the nematocysts. And alcohol will make them fire off even more, so don't do that. Other DIY remedies like shaving cream, bicarbonate of soda and sea water have no effect on the stingers, and trying to wash the tentacles off can be dangerous since you're giving them an opportunity to fall and latch onto a different part of your skin.
There is one home remedy that does work, however: Vinegar. It prevents the nematocysts from firing off so you don't get injected with anymore venom. If you get stung by a jellyfish, pour concentrated vinegar on the affected area, then have someone in protective gear remove the stingers with tweezers. Once the tentacles are removed, apply heat to the area, not cold. You might want cold to soothe your burning skin, but heat slows the venom down so it does less damage. If you think you'll be at the beach a lot, though, you might want to consider purchasing a product designed to deal with jellyfish stings. The study found that product's like Sting No More worked the best because they contain vinegar to shut down the nematocysts and high concentrations of urea to make tentacle removal easier.