Take the sting out of your spring break or summer beach trip

Spring breaks, and the endless summer we all look forward to, make for perfect beach days — the sand between your toes, the breeze on your face and the water lapping at your ankles.

Of course, there are a few things that put a damper on your blissful beach experience…

Sunburn, bug bites and (worst of all) jellyfish or man o’ war stings.

Now, if you’ve ever found yourself on the wrong side of a jellyfish or man o’ war, you know how painful and frightening a sting from one of these bizarre creatures can be….

Certain jellyfish stings can even be deadly (like the box jellyfish, for example). Man o’ war stings are rarely deadly but still cause alarming and uncomfortable symptoms, like:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Pulse changes
  • Chest pain
  • Collapse
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain and muscle spasms
  • Numbness and weakness
  • Pain in the arms or legs
  • A raised red spot at the site of the sting
  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Sweating

The man o’ war is a common visitor to U.S. beaches… so watch out. You’ll find them on the east coast everywhere from Florida to New Jersey. They’re also common in Hawaii and on the southern Pacific coast.

If you see one, you’ll recognize it… it’s a vibrant blue color that captures your attention immediately. People who don’t know better may be tempted to pick one up to examine it closer… they’re that mesmerizing. But that’s a huge mistake since these strangely beautiful sea creatures have a brutal sting.

Luckily, if you do somehow get stung by a man o’ war, there’s something you can do to prevent the sting from getting really bad. It’s something you’ll want to know before you head to the beach this summer. Especially because, it’s not what you’d expect…

Science says this is the best remedy for man o’ war stings…

If you know what to do right after you get stung by a man o’ war, you can save yourself a lot of discomfort…

But you’ve probably heard a lot of advice over the years. So what really works?

Well, I’ll tell you what won’t work… peeing on it. A 2011 study showed this gross remedy actually made jellyfish and man o’ war stings worse despite the popular belief that it helps.

Maybe you’ve also heard that you should treat a man o’ war sting differently than a jellyfish sting. Experts have said that you should steer clear of vinegar (the usual recommendation for jellyfish stings) and wash your sting with seawater. But according to a recent study, this also isn’t true….

Researchers from the University of Hawai’i- Mānoa tested various remedies on man o’ war stings and found that the best approach is the same as it is for jellyfish stings. Here’s what you need to do if you get stung by either of these dangerous sea creatures:

  • Rinse the sting with vinegar to remove any residual stingers or bits of tentacle.
  • Immerse the sting in hot water (113°F) or apply a hot pack for 45 minutes.

Researchers say the vinegar rinse helps lessen the venom at the sting site, while applying heat helps inactivate the venom that’s already been injected into you.

You could also invest in something called Sting No More® Spray and use that in place of vinegar. Researchers say it’s even more effective at inhibiting the venom. But you’d have to buy that ahead of time, because it’s primarily available online. Whatever you do, don’t rinse the sting with seawater or apply ice packs to the sting. Both of these practices will make the sting much worse and turn your beautiful summer beach days into a nightmare.

  1. Hawaii scientists scrutinize first aid for man o’ war stings. — EurekaAlert. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  2. Jellyfish stings. — Medline Plus. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  3. How Not to Get Stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War. — Live Science. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  4. Portuguese Man-of-War. — National Geographic. Retrieved June 9, 2017.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.