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Don’t take the p***

Funny thing about jellyfish is that they’re not jelly, nor are they fish. They can however, ruin your day if you are faced with one of the nasty ones. They can sting and maim people, some can even kill you, and I have it on good authority that being dead is not a good state to be in, so best avoid it at all costs. Now, some people still think that these things only drift around in tropical waters and you can’t find them around the UK. Oh, how wrong can you be.

Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances have been know to do a spot of wild swimming, myself included. Although when I say swimming, I’m more of a thrash-about-desperately-trying-not-to-drown type. Anyway, because of this, I thought I’d pass on what I know about jellies in the form of a “FABLOG” or First Aid Blog. I just made that up, good eh? Oh well, whatever!

It’s coming up to that time of year again, the news is going to be full of stories of people’s holiday disasters, often caused by wildlife, including jellyfish and how they can sting and maim people and how they are showing up around the coasts of the UK. They’ve been here for millions of years, so just try and keep up media guys. Anyway, I thought I’d rewrite my blog on jellyfish… again. They have, after all, survived for millions of years without a brain, so there’s hope for us yet, and they’re the reason Sean Conway grew that beard.

Man of War

When I say Man of War I’m not talking about Arnold Swatsisface or even Chuck Norris. No, I’m talking about a ball of slime that can sting and even kill a human. The Portuguese Man of War, Bluebottle or a jelly-like marine invertebrate, as my friends over at the FCO would say.

To start with let’s get the facts right. The Portuguese Man of War (MoW) is not actually a jellyfish, in fact it is not even an ‘it’ but more of a collection of several ‘bits’ It’s a siphonophore, or a collection of several separate organisms. Confused? Good ‘cos I am too, so let’s get on with the hurty bit.

The MoW can and does sting several thousand people each year, yep, thousands. Stings usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like marks that last a couple of days to a week, though the pain should subside after about an hour or two. But… a sting may lead to an allergic reaction which is where the trouble really starts. Anaphylactic shock, along with interference with the heart and lungs can cause death, although this is extremely rare.

What to do

If you’re unfortunate enough to get stung by a MoW try avoid any further contact with it, (don’t pick it up). If you’re in the water, get out, if you have found the thing on a beach, leave it alone and move away. Carefully remove any remnants of tentacles from the skin, using gloves if available or a passing stick, towel or bit of seaweed. Wash with sea water if possible, not fresh water as this can make things worse.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on which way you roll, urinating on a jelly sting is not going to do any good at all, it may actually cause more pain as the chemicals in your pee will aggravate the stingers into releasing more venom. So, after the sea water you should wash with water as hot as you can stand, this neutralises the toxins, thereby easing the pain.

If eyes have been affected they should be washed with tap water for 15 minutes. Seek medical advice every time, these are your eyes remember and I don’t know about you, but I only have two and I’ve grown to be quite fond of them. If you experience blurred vision, pain, swelling, or if light hurts your eyes, call 999 or 112 immediately, if not sooner.

Despite what some people say, do not use vinegar as this will make things worse, just like the pee. Remember, the MoW is not a jellyfish and the venom is different. Piddle, and the stuff you throw on your chips, can also cause bleeding when used on the less severe stings of other similar species.


Unlike the free floating, I-go-where-the-wind-takes-me MoW mentioned above, jellyfish can swim. They’re not vertebrates and they’re not even fish so like the scientist who told me about them, I’m going to just call them Jellies.

Some Jellies can sting using tentacles, some may be uncomfortable even if non-toxic, some hurt like hell and some can see you off. Some jellies are quite simply a ball of slime and are not dangerous at all, but unless you are a jelly expert, and can say which one is which, stay away from the things. They are sometimes so transparent that this is impossible to do in the water so there is a chance you may come in contact with them while swimming in the sea. What to do, if you’re stung? First get out of the water, this, if nothing else takes away the drowning part of the scenario.


As with the MoW, don’t touch. If you are the first aider and grab the jelly to remove it from the casualty, we now have two casualties. Not good. Remove it by using the back of a knife, or even a safety razor, as this will remove any stingers the jelly left you with. If you are dry and can see, possibly hundreds of stingers in you, one thing to consider may be waxing the area. Seriously! If it removes hair from the ladies legs or a “back, sack and crack”, it’ll pull out unwanted jelly stingers. The heat from the wax being put on you will also help.

For stings on or around the eyes, use a cloth or lint free bandage soaked in seawater to pat the area with, avoiding the eyeballs themselves. Again, don’t use fresh water as this can cause more venom to be released. Again, I’ve said it before, don’t believe the wives tales or Bear Grylls, (sorry Mel B, you were had) that peeing on stings helps, it doesn’t, and it can make things much worse, especially if it’s me you’re peeing on, if you get my meaning.


Even a dead, dying, washed up on the beach jelly or MoW can still sting so don’t touch.

  • If you get stung while in water, get out.
  • Remove whatever is holding onto you without touching it if you can.
  • Wash with the water you were swimming in, this reduces the chance of upsetting the stingers and making them fire more toxin into you.
  • Then wash with the hottest water you can stand
  • If pain persists or is intense, if there is an extreme allergic reaction, the rash gets worse, or you just feel ill, seek medical advice.
  • and finally, don’t take the p***.