Jellyfish are almost angelic to watch gliding through the water, but the sting of one of these beautiful sea creatures is not so innocent. Their slimy tentacles can leave a painful mark on our skin. There are several popular methods to relieving the pain of a jellyfish sting, one being to apply urine. However, one UAMS specialist says there is no evidence that this method works.
“Despite what anyone tells you, do not apply vinegar, urine or meat tenderizer to the affected area,” UAMS neurosurgeon Dr. T. Glenn Pait says. “Do not rub the area or give the person any medication until checking with a medical professional.”
Dr. Pait suggests the best thing to do is to immediately get out of the water and wash the affected area with salt water. Salt water will deactivate the stinging cells while fresh or tap water can reactive the stinging cells. It is also helpful to try to remove the cells carefully with something such as a credit card.
Where did the idea come from to apply urine on a sting? It’s thought to be an old wives’ tale and became even more popular after a Friends TV episode in which one character on the show applies urine to a jellyfish sting.
“Although most jellyfish are not especially dangerous to people, some are extremely toxic,” says Dr. Pait. “A person stung by a jellyfish may suffer from nausea or vomiting and have difficulty breathing along with pain in unaffected areas, such as the groin or armpit.”
If the injured person shows signs of severe allergic reaction or the area affected covers more than half an arm or leg, call 911 as soon as possible. Also, if the sting is from a box jellyfish, which is one of the more dangerous of jellyfish, please seek medical attention.