Over the last number of months, there has been a significant increase in jellyfish sightings along Irish coasts and beaches. In fact, some would say they are invading beaches if the social media videos being shared widely are anything to go by.
It is believed the dramatic jellyfish blooms are associated with warming waters due to climate change, an increase in recent Atlantic storms, and of course, overfishing. Unlike many marine animals unable to survive in our polluted oceans, jellyfish can survive with reduced oxygen levels and continue to grow at explosive rates.
There are many native jellyfish species in Ireland, but it seems at present the most common is the Lion’s Mane which can be usually found in cooler waters off the Irish Sea and has been observed along the east coast mostly. However, coastal towns such as Cork and Kerry have seen a huge rise in sea jellies this summer some measuring a whopping 3ft in width.
Jellyfish stings can be fatal but in most cases are not life-threatening. Most symptoms include a mild but immediate stinging pain at the site of the sting, and there may be skin reactions such as itching and redness.
If you or someone you know gets stung by a jellyfish, this is what to do:
First and foremost, try to get away from the jellyfish
If the tentacles are still attached, remove any spines from the skin using a stick, a towel, edge of a bank card or tweezers if you have one. Suppose none of these is available, use the tips of your fingers.
Old wives tales state peeing on a jellyfish sting relieves the pain
This is incorrect advice. Rinse the affected area with seawater and do not use vinegar, freshwater or alcohol.
If you are on a lifeguarded beach, seek advice if they are on duty.
They may apply a cold pack or ice pack in a towel to help ease any remaining discomfort.
It is important that you avoid rubbing the affected area
It can result in further venom being released and make the sting worse.
Treatment options vary
Mild jellyfish stings can be treated with antihistamine creams for the itch and Paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain and swelling. If there are puncture wounds, keep them clean and dry to avoid infection.
More serious stings
These might include swelling, breathing difficulties, chest tightenings and palpitations and will require immediate attention. If this occurs, transfer the patient to the nearest emergency department immediately.
To avoid getting stung by a jellyfish, wear protective clothing when at the beach, wetsuits provide the ultimate protection, and protective footwear will help prevent stings from beached jellyfish. Even if a jellyfish is dying outside of water, it can still release venom.