Injuries due to jellyfish stings have become a growing public health concern and have caused more deaths than shark attacks. Some do-it-yourself jellyfish sting remedies available online may cause more harm than good, according to a new research published in the journal Toxins on March 15.

Online sources such as WebMD and Mayo Clinic have recommended treatments that could potentially increase the venom and pain due to jellyfish stings.

"We put those methods to test in the lab, and found they actually make stings much, much worse," Dr. Angel Yanagihara, one of the researchers and assistant professor at the UHM Pacific Biosciences Research Center, said.

Some Popular Remedies Debunked

Internet-recommended jellyfish sting treatments, such as dousing the tentacles with saltwater or scraping it off with a plastic object, have been found to increase the surface area of the sting.

The study also said that scraping the affected tissues to remove the tentacles could enhance the venom of the stinging cells.

Applying ice to the sting also exacerbates the pain and urinating on it, which is practiced by some people, would not help either.

"The increases in venom injection and activity we saw in our study from methods like scrapping and applying ice could mean the difference between life and death," Yanagihara said.

What To Do If Stung By Jellyfish

As the study debunked the popular remedies to treat a jellyfish sting, it recommended the use of vinegar to rinse the injured parts.

The researchers have discovered that vinegar "prevents the stinging cells from firing."

They also said that heat, when applied to the affected area, decreases the venom activity. Instead of scraping the tentacles, plucking them will lessen venom injection.

Although these remedies will have different results depending on the jellyfish species involved but, generally, these would help.

Seek Help And Be Cautious

When these remedies are not on hand, seeking help from the nearest lifeguard station is the next best thing to do.

"Lifeguards are trained to treat jellyfish stings," Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for the City Division of Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services, said.

The lifeguards, she said, have the hot packs and vinegar ready in their station.

A venom-inhibiting product, such as the Yanagihara-developed Sting No More, has been also recommended to treat a jellyfish sting. Testing of the said product was conducted under the Hawaii Conflict of Interest plan.

As a precaution to beachgoers, the Waikiki Aquarium website has included a box jellyfish calendar. The jellyfish are in abundance starting on the 8th day until the 12th following a full moon.

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