Lesson Learned

What not to do when stung by a jellyfish.

August 12, 2010

Jelly Fish

jellyfish from istockphoto royalty free DATE CREATED: 04/08/2006 Threshold = 6 Radius = 1.5 TL = 0.000 Sobel : 0.136 16:0.332 32:0.030 64:0.005 128:0.000 256:0.000

A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a swim off the back of my family’s 33-foot Egg Harbor in Long Island’s Connetquot River. The water, while refreshing, was extremely murky. As I swam through the cloudy water doing my best imitation of a Jaws victim I discovered that I was not alone. I found this out when I swam face-first into the tentacles of a jellyfish. Being an avid boater I was familiar with jellyfish but never respected them as a worthy adversary.

I immediately surfaced and broke free from the chokehold it had on me. Though I never got a good look at the beast I can only speculate that I swam into the grips of the elusive Portuguese man o’ war jellyfish indigenous to the Indian Ocean, though my family who were watching on argued the contrary.

I made my way back to the swim platform where I was met with an intense stinging sensation across my entire face.


“Oh your face hurts? Well it’s killing me!” joked my unhelpful younger brother.

In a world of smart phones and free WiFi Internet access, I found myself in the fabled dead zone and didn’t have access to Google to learn how to stop the pain of the sting. My old man broke out his intuitive home remedies. I will include a step-by-step description of what happened next, along with information [in brackets] I learned from the web when I returned to civilization.

Our first idea was to rinse my face of with fresh water. [Do NOT use fresh water, which will cause the nematocysts from the sting to continue to release their toxin.]


Next I was urged to try rubbing some hair shampoo on my face. [Do NOT rub the area, as it will also cause the nematocysts to release their toxin.]

Skin-exfoliating wipes and Clorox wipes [From the Clorox wipes warning label: “Precautionary Statement: Hazardous to Humans and Domestic Animals CAUTION: Causes moderate eye irritation. Avoid contact with eyes or clothing. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.”] also failed to do the trick.

When I had given up hope for relief my old man told me to try using Windex because it contains ammonia. Getting desperate I agreed to have glass cleaner sprayed on my face [“Undiluted product is an eye irritant. In case of eye contact, rinse eyes thoroughly with water for 20 minutes. (If irritation persists, seek medical attention.) Contains surfactants. — To avoid eye injury, do not spray directly in eyes.”] I stood there, face stinging worse then before as my dad shrugged, took back the glass cleaner and went about cleaning the windows.


Thankfully the sting subsided after some time and I was on my way. I later learned that vinegar is a popular household product that eases the pain from a sting. There is also a Jellyfish After Sting pain relief gel ($6.99) you can purchase.

As I look out onto the water, I can’t help but feel that the beast and I will one day meet again. Next time…I’ll be ready.


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