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Does Peeing on a Jellyfish Sting Work?

Does Peeing on a Jellyfish Sting Work?

You aren’t the only one who has heard of this supposed “nature’s remedy” to jellyfish stings. In fact, millions of viewers watched the iconic beach episode of “Friends” where this was the shocking cure to the jellyfish sting Monica suffered. But is that really what you’re supposed to do?

Some say that if you have a jellyfish sting, peeing on it relieves pain, while others claim vinegar does the job. Or is it some other concoction? That’s what we’re here to find out. So let’s dive in!

Friends: The Jellyfish Aftermath (Clip) | TBS

What Is a Jellyfish Sting?

A jellyfish is a soft-bodied, free-swimming marine animal with a jelly-like bell or sphere-shaped body and trailing tentacles. The bell can pulsate to propel the jellyfish through the water.

Jellyfish lurk in every ocean, from the surface to the deep sea. You can even find them in freshwater lakes and ponds! Some jellyfish are barely bigger than a grain of sand, while others are as enormous as a beach ball.

As jellyfish float, they sting anything that brushes against their tentacles using nematocysts, tiny venom-filled cells. A jellyfish sting can feel like a bee sting at first, but the pain worsens and can spread up your arm or leg.

Depending on the type of jellyfish, the stings can be very painful or even deadly! Beware of jellyfish on the shore or even tentacles floating in the water. Even if the tentacles are no longer attached to the jellyfish, they can still sting for another two weeks.

Do All Jellyfish Sting?

Contrary to popular belief, not all jellyfish sting. In fact, most jellyfish pose no threat to humans. Even if you get stung, it will most likely not be an emergency.

However, there are several common jellyfish on North American shores that you’ll want to watch out for, as their sting will hurt. These include the moon jellyfish, the Portuguese Man ‘o War, lion’s mane, and sea nettle. While rare, the very dangerous box jellyfish can also sometimes be found in the tropical waters of Florida.

Jellyfish warning sign
Avoid swimming close to jellyfish to stay sting free!

Are Jelly Fish Stings Painful?

Anyone unfortunate enough to experience a jellyfish sting knows it can be excruciating. The jellyfish’s barbed tentacles cause the sting. 

Their barbs release a venom that can cause everything from a mild burning sensation to muscle cramps and paralysis. In some cases, the pain can be incredibly intense. Thankfully, you can quickly treat most jellyfish stings.

However, if you experience difficulty breathing or throat swelling, you should seek medical attention immediately. These could be signs of a more severe reaction.

Pro Tip: Watch out for jellyfish when swimming near these 13 Best Beachfront RV Park Destinations in the US.

How Long Do Jellyfish Stings Last?

Jellyfish stings can vary in severity, from mild tingling to intense pain. Most jellyfish stings will last for a few hours, with the pain slowly subsiding.

However, some jellyfish stings can cause more severe reactions, like swelling, difficulty breathing, and nausea. In rare cases, jellyfish stings can even be deadly. If a jellyfish stings you and you experience these more severe symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Child holding large jellyfish on the beach.
Think twice before you have someone pee on your jellyfish sting. There are better options!

Should You Pee On a Jellyfish Sting?

A jellyfish sting can be excruciating, and there are many myths and old wives’ tales about how to treat them. One popular belief is that you should urinate on a jellyfish sting to ease the pain.

However, there’s no scientific evidence to support this claim. and peeing on a jellyfish sting could make it worse. Urine is slightly acidic, triggering the jellyfish’s nematocysts to release more venom.

In addition, the heat from urine can also cause additional pain. So, if you’re ever unfortunate enough to experience a jellyfish sting, it’s best to pass on this advice.

Why Do People Think They Should Urinate on Jellyfish Stings?

The origin of this myth is unknown. But it may be possible that people assumed urine would be effective due to its acidic nature and being made of ammonia and urea. However, ammonia is the only component actually shown to be effective in some cases, and the amount found in urine is actually very small.

The Friends Season 4, Episode 1 “The One with the Jellyfish” may be one of the largest spreaders of this rumor. It is estimated that over 29 million viewers watched the aftermath of Monica’s jellyfish sting, where Chandler resorts to urinating on Monica’s sting based on Joey’s memory of seeing a documentary on it.

While funny and memorable, it is not the best experience for a victim of a sting or anyone else on the beach.

Does Vinegar On Jellyfish Sting Work?

You’re out for a day at the beach, enjoying the sun and the waves, when you feel a sharp pain in your leg. A jellyfish has stung you! If you’re lucky, you might have vinegar on hand to pour over the sting.

Vinegar on a jellyfish sting is a widely-known home remedy people have passed down for generations. But does vinegar help to ease the pain? In some cases, the vinegar works by neutralizing the tentacles of the jellyfish. People also say it helps relieve the pain associated with a jellyfish sting after the initial cleaning of the wounded area.

However, some studies suggest that this remedy doesn’t work for all jellyfish species stings. It could actually have a negative effect when used immediately after the sting. Saltwater is actually the most preferred rinsing agent.

In our experience, vinegar was most helpful in the later stages of sting wound care. More on that later.

Vinegar is a common topical option to use post-jellyfish sting.

How to Treat a Jellyfish Sting

To treat a jellyfish sting, there are a few more steps than simply pouring salt water on it. By following the steps below, you’ll neutralize the sting quickly, alleviate the pain, and reduce the chances of severe symptoms that require medical attention.

Exit the Water

First, get away from the jellyfish! Get out of the water. If there’s one jellyfish in there, there could be more. Not to mention, you can’t treat the sting while immersed in water.

Relax

Try to stay calm and still, especially in the affected area. Moving the stung area can circulate the venom further in your body

Rinse with Salt Water

You may have tentacles or little stingers stuck to your skin. Before removing them, rinse the sting site with salt water (NOT fresh water). This may hopefully remove many of the remaining tentacles.

Rinsing with salt water maintains the same pH and salt concentrations in the wound area as when the sting occurred. This helps keeps more venom from releasing during the next step: removing the stubborn tentacles and barbs.

Note: If you have been stung by a box jellyfish, vinegar immersion is advised for 30 seconds or more at this stage. This will help neutralize the powerful tentacles before you agitate them in the next step.

Remove Tentacles

Once you neutralize the tentacles, it’s time to remove them. Don’t start picking at them with your fingers, though. You risk embedding them into your skin or transferring them to your fingers.

Use tweezers to pluck the tentacles from your skin carefully. If you don’t have tweezers or a similar instrument, you can carefully use a credit card to scrape the barbs out of the skin. It’s not the best way to do it, so try to use tweezers or something similar.

Apply a Baking Soda Slurry

In most studies, baking soda also had a positive effect on the sting area. Combine a 50/50 mixture of sodium bicarbonate and seawater and apply for several minutes. Then rinse off (again with seawater).

Soak the Skin

Now it’s time to go entirely into pain management mode. Place the injured area in a hot bath, using the hottest water you can comfortably tolerate. It’s not necessary for the water to be scalding hot, as that’ll only do more damage. Soak or rinse in this very warm water for about 20-30 minutes.

Take and Apply Ointment

Now that you’ve eliminated the threat and cleaned the sting area, take some oral anti-inflammatory medicine and apply an anti-inflammatory ointment to reduce the risk of infection and help further reduce any pain symptoms.

The best over-the-counter ointment is hydrocortisone cream. This helps relieve redness, itching, swelling, and other discomfort caused by the sting. Alleviating these symptoms reduces the amount of pain you feel.

Seek Medical Attention if Pain Persists

If the pain isn’t reducing or going away, you need to seek medical attention. Pain is your body’s best messenger to tell you that something is still wrong. Listen to it.

Also, if swelling persists, you have trouble breathing, or you feel nauseous, seek medical attention. These are indicators that the situation may be much worse than the pain of a simple sting, and simply putting vinegar on the jellyfish sting isn’t enough.

Jellyfish stings can burn, but also can cause swelling and allergic reactions.

Delayed Reactions to Jellyfish Sting

​If you’re like me, you may even experience a delayed reaction to the sting. I (Cait) was stung while snorkeling in the Florida Keys. We chose to snorkel at Sombrero Reef located 6 miles off Marathon Key.

We had read that the reef here was one of the healthiest and one of the most satisfying for seeing lots of marine life. I was both excited and terrified to snorkel – with a few possibly unrealistic fears of being eaten by sharks or being bitten by a barracuda. But we both wanted to see what it was like, and the Key really need to be experienced from the water.

snorkeling in the florida  keys

Shortly after entering the water, I felt something weird on my arm like bee stings or static electricity. These stings left little red spotted lines on my skin where the tentacles made contact.

At first, they seemed faint. And after the initial intense sting, they died down and did not bother me at all. I did not put anything special on them for this reason right after it happened.  

Jellyfish sting right after snorkel trip.
Jellyfish sting right after snorkel trip.

Stings After One Week: 

However, one week later I developed a bad case of delayed sensitivity to the jellyfish stings. Basically all the areas I had been stung flared up in a red, insanely itchy rash. I didn’t even know that the sting wrapped all the way around my arm!

jellyfish sting
jelly sting

Hydrocortisone and other anti-itch creams and sprays provided little relief and seemed to make the area even more inflamed, swollen, and moist. I could hardly sleep – every turn-over would rub the area and reignite the sensation.

A Easy & Effective Home Remedy: Vinegar

Before calling the doctor, I reached out to a friend who lived in the Florida Keys. She told me of a remedy that IMMEDIATELY relieved my itching: vinegar. I thought I’d give it a try.

I used apple cider vinegar, but she said any type of vinegar would work. ​With the first application, the red, swollen, moist, itchy areas seemed to just relax and dry up. I slept like a baby for the first time in days, and woke up with no itching.

I applied the vinegar again, and then twice daily for several days, even though the itching never really came back after that first application.

Of course, this experience is purely anecdotal. If your sting pain persists, you should seek medical attention.

How to Prevent Jellyfish Sting

What’s the best way to treat a jellyfish sting? I’d say reducing the risk of a sting in the first place. If the jellyfish don’t sting you, there’s nothing to treat.

Avoid Jellyfish

The most straightforward plan is avoidance. If you’re not in the water where jellyfish are active, logic dictates that you won’t feel a sting.

Anytime you’re going to be in water that could be jellyfish territory, do your research. Check the water conditions first to know if there has been a jellyfish bloom or activity. 

There is a jellyfish season in most waters. Don’t enter the water during the season, especially if officials report high jellyfish activity. For instance, when we are in Florida (on the Atlantic side), the Man-O-Wars usually show up in February.

Jellyfish are also often present on or near the shore after heavy rain or windy weather has stirred the waters or when there are warmer temperatures. Many public beaches are diligent about flying a purple flag to signal marine life in the water. These are times to be highly alert and diligent about checking for activity.

Pro Tip: If you want to avoid some scary sea creatures, find out how to Visit America’s Freshwater Inland Seas.

Try Jellyfish Repellent

Try wearing jellyfish repellent. This is particularly essential if you are in water that is home to more dangerous jellyfish like Box Jellyfish or Sea Nettles.

Jellyfish repellent fools jellyfish into thinking that you are another jellyfish. Because of this, they don’t try to sting you, and you won’t need to put vinegar on a jellyfish sting and treat pain or other symptoms.

Many jellyfish repellents include sunscreen. These repellents do double duty by protecting you from the sun’s damaging rays.

Use a Protective Suit

Another very way to avoid jellyfish stings is wearing a protective suit. Many dive shops sell dive skins or stinger suits. These suits are typically neoprene, lycra, or spandex. They are usually water permeable but protect against jellyfish. This way, you won’t have to worry if you have vinegar or baking soda on hand to put on a jellyfish sting.

Support Sea Turtles and Sunfish Organizations

Though many people are scared of spiders, they also appreciate them because they are natural predators of mosquitoes. We can all appreciate that. Like spiders help keep mosquitoes under control, some natural predators keep jellyfish in check.

Two of those natural jellyfish predators are sea turtles and sunfish. Both work to keep jellyfish in check. Additionally, neither is a primary threat to humans.

Unfortunately, of the seven sea turtle species worldwide, six are endangered. Ocean sunfish are not yet endangered but are a vulnerable population.

Several non-profit organizations work to protect sea turtles and sunfish. If you want to naturally combat overzealous jellyfish populations or want to help protect sea turtles and sunfish, support the organizations that assist them. We recommend checking out the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center located on the Atlantic side of Florida.

Should You Pee On A Jellyfish Sting? Debunked

Recover Quickly From a Painful Jellyfish Sting

Don’t be like Joey and Chandler in “Friends.” Don’t turn to your friend’s bladder to alleviate a jellyfish sting. It simply won’t work. In fact, it might just make things worse. 

Instead of peeing on it, use saltwater or (if a box jellyfish or true jellyfish) vinegar on a jellyfish sting. That will start the process of negating the stinging tentacles and alleviating the pain from the sting.

Better yet, take the sting out of it! Please don’t make it necessary to recover quickly from a painful jellyfish sting. Instead of treating a sting, avoid jellyfish altogether. Pay attention to jellyfish conditions and wear repellent or a sting suit when entering potential jellyfish territory. 

Have you ever been stung by a jellyfish before? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Gina Cunningham

Friday 4th of November 2022

We always kept a bottle of meat tenderizer on our boat for the occasional jellyfish sting. It works on bee stings, too! Keep some in the spice rack of the RV for double duty.

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 19th of November 2022

Thanks for the tip!

Vickie Montgomery

Friday 4th of November 2022

There is a product called safe sea, I use it anytime in Florida while swimming. After I was stung before I did my research. This product also protects from sea lice and a few other things. I was able to find it on Amazon. I have not been stung yet while encountering jellyfish, but I do exit the water when I see them. Hope this helps!

Mortons on the Move

Saturday 19th of November 2022

Good to know! Thank you for sharing!

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