Expert: Put Vinegar, Not Urine, On Jellyfish Stings

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Despite what you may have heard, the head of the British Red Cross would like you to know that peeing on a jellyfish sting doesn't work very well at making the pain go away.

"Urine just doesn't have the right chemical make-up to solve the problem," Joe Mulligan, the head of the British Red Cross, told The Telegraph.

Instead, people should first get out of the water, so that the jellyfish won't sting them again, he said. Pouring vinegar over the sting is the best solution to relieve the pain, but seawater also works if there is no vinegar handy, The Telegraph reported.

Dr. Ryan Stanton, medical director at UK HealthCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, Ky., told MSNBC that vinegar, isopropyl alcohol and ocean water are the top three things that work to relieve jellyfish sting pain. Only after those three is urine considered an effective option.

That's because vinegar, alcohol and seawater all contain acidic chemicals that can neutralize the stinging sensation by deactivating the stinging cells in the venom, called nematocysts, Stanton told MSNBC. If urine is extremely concentrated it might work, but if the person drank too much water then it wouldn't work very well, he said.

While it may not be an oft-used remedy at American beaches, lifeguard stations at Australian beaches all have vinegar in case of jellyfish stings, ABC News reported.

Travel medicine specialist Dr. Suzanne Shepherd told ABC News that soaking a paper towel or cloth with vinegar and putting it over the sting for 30 minutes can help relieve the pain, or pouring the vinegar right on the sting.

It is important not to rub the sting, though, because that will make the pain worse, Dr. Paul Auerbach, an emergency physician at Stanford University Hospital, told ABC News.

Other remedies for relieving pain from a jellyfish sting include meat tenderizer, household ammonia, baking soda and lemon or lime juice, according to ABC News.

However, it's a good idea to avoid freshwater because it could cause the nematocysts to fire and cause a stinging sensation, Auerbach told ABC News.

Jellyfish swarms are common all over the world, with swarms often occurring in the Gulf Coast region, near Hawaii and near Chesapeake Bay in the United States, according to the National Science Foundation. Jellyfish swarms aren't an uncommon phenomenon -- they have been happening for millions of years, and occur whether or not there is human-caused environmental damage. They tend to happen when the environmental and weather conditions are optimal for jellyfish survival, according to the NSF.

For example, just this Memorial Day weekend, 400 people were stung by jellyfish that had invaded central Florida beaches, causing two to be hospitalized. The large number of sting injuries was likely due to the unusually crowded beach that weekend because of the holiday.

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