JellyFish Facts

Can a Jellyfish Sting Kill You?

Can a Jellyfish Sting Kill You? picture

Can a Jellyfish Sting Kill You?

While swimming in the water, you can be stung by a jellyfish by coming in contact with it or coming in contact with a loose tentacle floating aimlessly in the ocean. It happens that the tentacles may at times get off of the jellyfish after a storm in the sea. Note also that a dead jellyfish that has been swept ashore can also sting hence caution should be observed anytime there is contact. Jellyfish have nematocysts - sac like features attached to them that are full of venom. Once you get stung, the nematocysts and tentacles will still be attached to your skin and will need to be removed.

While most jellyfish stings are nontoxic (of course with some few exceptions), they can really be painful. This burning sensation will occur when the stingers come in contact with you while swimming or wading in the ocean. Jellyfish are categorized into several classes of invertebrates:

  • Scyphozoans - common class 'true' jellyfish
  • Hydrozoans e.g. fire corals and the Portuguese man-of-war
  • Anthrozoans e.g. corals, sea anemones - which have a relation with jellyfish but cause less harm to human beings
  • Cubozoans e.g. box jellyfish - the most toxic and life threatening of them all

Stings from true jellyfish are less toxic compared to cubozoans and hydrozoans and would normally result in the injury of the affected part of the skin that came in contact with the tentacles. You will feel pain, itchy, and experience a raised red rash. Learn more about jellyfish sting symptoms. In some cases, allergic reactions may occur which will exacerbate the severity and inflammation of the rash.

The Portuguese man-of-war is quite painful compared to that of true jellyfish. Those stung describe it as feeling like one has been clouted by a lightning bolt. Recorded evidence indicates that the Portuguese man-of-war sting has been responsible for two deaths.

The riskiest of all these is the box jellyfish of the cubozoans class. Box jellyfish are mostly found in Australia and are known to have very dangerous venom that can cause an immediate collapse of the cardiovascular, respiratory, and neuromuscular causing paralysis and killing within minutes. It's therefore quiet true that a jellyfish sting can kill you. Once you get stung by the box jellyfish, you will need immediate administration of anti-venom which of course will undo the effects of the poison.

Whether you're stuck by a killing sting or a non fatal sting, it's advisable to rid yourself off all tentacles on the skin using forceps or gloves. DO NOT use your bare hands as they might stick again on your hands and continue spreading the venom in your blood. Applying vinegar will also disable all stingers and make the symptoms less severe.

If a jellyfish stings you on the mouth, face, eyes, genitalia, etc, or you become very ill after a jellyfish sting, i.e. experience difficulty in inhalation or swallowing, or even develop some very severe pain because of a jellyfish sting, it's highly advisable to seek emergency medical attention immediately. Remember this is venom entering your body and the more it stays in you the more it reacts with different body parts, which may eventually cause death. Learn more about jellyfish safety.

Learn more about Killer Jellyfish

Learn more about Jellyfish, different Jellyfish Species, general Jellyfish Information, Jellyfish Pets and Jellyfish Safety

Written by and Sudarsana Sinha.

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