Not all types of Jellyfish are harmful but some types carry potent stinging arrangement in the tentacles which hang below the umbrella shaped body. When the swimmer comes in contact with the tentacles stinging cells are injected into the body. Persons with light, dry skins are affected worst. The Portuguese Man-of-War - not likely to be found off our coasts has a nerve poison chemically related to cobra venom. Less potent species is the little Sailor-by-the-Wind.
The deadliest of all, the Chironex Fleeckeri, commonly known as the the Sea Wasp. It is found in coastal waters from northern Australia and New Guinea, north to the Philippines and Vietnam, it is one of the most lethal venomous marine animals. The venom acts directly upon the heart muscle and produces instant cardiac paralysis.
First aid for the treatment of jellyfish stings:
- Ensure you don't get stung yourself when aiding others
- Remove any attached tentacles with a gloved hand, stick, or towel (if none of these are available use the tips of your fingers)
- Do not rub the affected area (this may result in further venom release)
- Rinse the affected area with sea-water (do not use fresh water, vinegar, alcohol or urine)
- Apply a ‘dry cold pack’ to the area (i.e. place a cold pack or ice inside a plastic bag and then wrap this package in a t-shirt or other piece of cloth)
- Seek medical attention if there is anything other than minor discomfort
- If the patient is suffering from swelling, breathing difficulties, palpitation or chest tightness then transfer to the nearest emergency department urgently
These guidelines were drawn up by the Jellyfish Action Group of Ireland and Wales (which includes experts form Beaumont Poison Centre, Pre-hospital Emergency Care experts, hospital A&E consultants, local GPs, and water safety officers) and are only to be applied in Irish and Welsh waters. If travelling abroad seek advice for that specific country.