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Definition Return to top
Jellyfish are sea creatures that have a nearly see-through (transparent) body with long finger-like structures called tentacles. Stinging cells inside the tentacles can hurt you if you come in contact with them. Some stings can cause serious harm.
This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Poisonous Ingredient Return to top
Where Found Return to top
Types of jellyfish include:
Note: This list is not all inclusive.
Symptoms Return to top
Home Care Return to top
Seek immediate medical attention.
If you know for certain that the person has been stung by a Portuguese man-of-war or sea nettle, wash with salt water (ocean water is OK, but make sure you do NOT get sand in the wound). Protect affected area if possible. Soak the area with a solution made of 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water for about 30 minutes. This helps remove the tentacles. Rinse the area and then resoak with more 1/2 strength vinegar.
(You may also remove tentacles by applying a paste made of flour or shaving cream and scraping the area with a dull instrument such as a credit card.)
Apply a cream containing a painkiller, an antihistamine, or a corticosteroid.
Before Calling Emergency Return to top
Determine the following information:
Poison Control Return to top
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room Return to top
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated as appropriate. The patient may receive:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Portuguese man-of-war and sea nettle stings are rarely deadly. Sea wasp stings can be deadly in minutes.
References Return to top
Marx J. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2006.
Noble J. Textbook of Primary Care Medicine. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2001.Update Date: 2/17/2009 Updated by: A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Greg Juhn, MTPW, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Stephen C. Acosta, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (10/24/2007).