Because stinging cells are scattered throughout a jellyfish’s tissues, and because each of us reacts differently to being stung, you should avoid contacting jellyfish with your naked skin. You should particularly avoid contact with eyes, nose or mouth and lips, as well as other membrane-rich areas of your body: DO NOT skinny-dip when there are lots of jellyfish about!
In the event of a bad sting, you are advised to seek immediate medical attention (10177) and to contact the poisons unit of your nearest hospital:
Contact telephone numbers of South African Poisons Units and information centres that operate 24 hours a day are provided below. Please note – some of these numbers are intended for medical professionals. If you do have to phone one of the numbers below, it is important to try and identify the actual species that has caused the sting because their database holdings are extensive. Please be aware that many of the experts on the other end of the telephone line will never have treated jellyfish stings before.
021 689 5227: 021 658 5378: 021 658 5075 (Red Cross Children’s Hospital)
021 931 6129 (Tygerberg Hospital – Information Centre)
082 491 0160 (University of Bloemfontein – Information Centre)
Please be advised that some sting-victims may suffer anaphylactic shock and will need immediate on site treatment if they are to survive. The following link has more information on anaphylactic shock:
Anaphylaxis: diagnosis and management
The treatment of minor stings can be remedied by consulting the advice provided on the list of websites here, which also gives a list of the symptoms that victims may display on being stung. These symptoms may persist for days afterwards, and some may only be apparent some hours after having been stung. The following links contain further information:
Worldwide deaths and severe envenomation from jellyfish stings
A randomised controlled trial of hot water (45°C) immersion versus ice packs for pain relief in bluebottle stings
How To Treat a Jellyfish Sting
Some species of jellyfish are life-threatening to even the healthiest person (the young, old and sick are particularly at risk), and should you see any box-jellies in the water, you should avoid swimming altogether. You should also alert the nearest life-guard station.
Be aware that the tentacles of jellyfish may break off in the surf, so that even if you do not think you have been stung by a jellyfish you may have done so if they are present in the water. Keep your eyes peeled!