Lonely Planet Writer

A new study has found the best way to deal with a lion's mane jellyfish sting

There’s nothing like a sting from a jellyfish to ruin your day on holidays, but at least treatment will be more effective now that new research has identified the best way to handle a sting from the lion’s mane jellyfish.

Jellyfish warning sign, on Cable Beach, Australia. Image: Pete Karas
Jellyfish warning sign, on Cable Beach, Australia. Image: Pete Karas

The lion’s mane jellyfish is the largest known species of jellyfish, and it is common in the English Channel, Irish Sea, North Sea and in western Scandinavian waters. With over 1000 tentacles that can stretch up to four or five metres in length, a bad sting from this creature can cause severe local reactions and extreme pain. Current best practices in several countries recommend treating the stings using sea water and cold packs, which is not the correct action as it induces significant increases in venom delivery. Thankfully, researchers from NUI Galway in Ireland and the University of Hawaii at Manoa have now identified the best way to treat the problem.

Lion's mane jellyfish. Image: James R.D. Scott
Lion’s mane jellyfish. Image: James R.D. Scott

In research published in the international journal, Toxins, they suggest that the sting should be rinsed with vinegar to remove the tentacles and then immersed in water heated to around 45 Celsius for around 40 minutes. If hot water is not available, a heat pack can be applied instead. This result mirrors previous studies these researchers conducted on stings from the Portuguese man o’ war and box jellyfish, which also respond to vinegar and hot water.

A Lion's Mane jellyfish washed up in Scotland. Image: John Lawson, Belhaven
A Lion’s Mane jellyfish washed up in Scotland. Image: John Lawson, Belhaven

“Now that we have shown that vinegar and hot water work on these three jellyfish species, it will be much easier to standardise and simplify first aid for stings where many different types of jellyfish occur,” says Dr Tom Doyle, lead author of the study and lecturer in zoology at NUI Galway.