Hundreds and hundreds of central Florida beach-goers enjoying the sun and surf this week were faced with a very unpleasant shock.
About 1,200 beach-goers were stung by jellyfish just from Saturday to Wednesday in Volusia County, said Captain Tamra Malphurs, Public Information Officer for the Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue.
None of the incidents were life threatening, she said.
“This number is very high — it’s not something that happens more than once a year on average,” Malphurs told ABC News.
There’s no average number of jellyfish stings at Volusia County beaches, Malphurs said, adding that the area doesn’t have a peak jellyfish season.
“The jellyfish are just pretty much at the mercy of the winds or currents,” she explained, so the county can go weeks without one sting, and then when a group of jellyfish float in, shorelines could see up to 100 stings per day.
The water temperature this week has been typical for the time of year, Malphurs said, so she doesn’t attribute the uptick to that. Instead, she blames the rising popularity of the county’s beaches.
“People are really flocking here — on the weekends it’s extremely busy. We’re at capacity in most areas,” she said, so more people just happen to be enjoying the water.
More people in the water, combined with the winds and the current, created the “perfect storm” of stings this week, she said.
Here are some of Malphurs’ tips for what to do if stung by a jellyfish:
— Get out of the water and avoid rubbing the sting, which can make it worse.
— Rinsing the area with vinegar is a common treatment.
— Most jellyfish stings are not life threatening and usually the pain dies down after a few minutes.
There are a lot of myths on what to do in the aftermath of a sting, but Prevention spoke with experts about the best course of action to take. Here’s what to do—and what definitely not to do—in case a jellyfish gets you.
Get out of the water
If you’ve been stung, return to dry land as soon as possible to avoid getting stung again.
Don’t rinse off the affected area with drinking water
It could increase the pain. The nematocysts in the cells that cause the sting will actually release more venom and cause more pain. First, rinse with saltwater and try not touch the affected area with your bare hands.
Peeing on the sting does nothing
The origins of the urination-theory are unknown, but it was popularized by a Friends episode where Chandler pees on Monica. Don’t believe everything you see on television though, because “it’s a total myth,” says Ted Szymanski, DO, an assistant professor of emergency medicine with the Mayo Clinic. “There’s no truth to it.”
Do use vinegar
Szymanski suggests dousing the infected area with vinegar or acetic acid to immediately relieve pain.
Shaving cream might work, too
If you don’t have vinegar handy, shaving cream may also relieve pain, Dr. Syzmanski says. “If you put shaving cream on, it keeps nematocysts intact and they don’t rupture. You can wipe it off.”
Heat is key
In a set of guidelines provided to Prevention, the Red Cross recommends removing remaining tentacles with a “blunt object.” After rinsing the area with sea water, apply hot water or a hot pack “as hot as the patient can tolerate for 20 minutes” or until pain is relieved.
Seek help for worsening symptoms
Jellyfish-sting injuries are generally confined to irritation, burning, and stinging sensations on the affected area. However, in rare cases of severe envenomation, one might experience vomiting, trouble walking, nausea, headaches, and seizures. If that’s the case, Dr. Szymanski suggests seeking immediate medical attention at a nearby hospital.