Which jellyfish sting?


Lately, there have been reports of thousands of jellyfish on the west coast of England and Wales - both on the beach and in the water.


Our guide to UK jellyfish

Why do jellyfish strand on our beaches?


What we all need to know is, are these jellyfish going to sting us?


The truth is that all jellyfish sting, but not all of them have a sting that is strong enough to get through human skin so we hardly feel it, if at all.


Most of the jellyfish we encounter around the UK cannot cause us serious problems but there are a few that can. The moon jellyfish distinguishable by its four pink rings (above) is one of those generally thought to be harmless.


The compass jellyfish below (brown lines radiating from the centre), has long tentacles and can give you a painful sting.


Jellyfish sting as a way of catching their prey and also perhaps to discourage other creatures from eating the jellyfish. The sting is in the tentacles which can simply brush against you by accident.


The By-the-wind sailor and comb jelly below are not known to be stingers.



The big hitters


A fearsome stinger and definitely one to avoid is the Portuguese Man of War - below. It looks like a thin, odd-shaped ballon with blue tentacles. Fortunately, these are pretty rare on British coasts. The stings can be extremely painful and last some time. In some cases the effects can be serious. Seek medical advice immediately in case of a sting.



The Lion's Mane jellyfish (below) gives a very painful sting which warrants medical treatment.


As with Portuguese Man o' War the sting can remain active in the jellyfish even when it has been lying on the beach for some time.



The Mauve Stinger (pictured below), as the name suggests, can give a sting - some people say it is equivalent to a nettle stings, others feel it more painfully.



A mild sting to one person may be more serious in others


The blue jellyfish (above) is not generally thought of as having a bad sting, however, I have talked to people who are sure that they have received a nasty sting from it (more like a wasp sting than a mild nettle rash). And this is perhaps one of the problems with talking about jellyfish stings - some people experience them differently to others.


It is likely that people with thinner skin (children) may be more sensitive to stings than others. Damaged skin may also present vulnerability. It is also possible that some people are allergic to certain stings.




Keep your pants on!


And here's a word of warning about skinny dipping... a fisherman told me recently that at a certain of year, when the barrel jellyfish (above) are common in the waters in which he fishes, he has received some very unpleasant (although not lasting) stings from them in the delicate genital area. Barrel jellyfish, in ordinary circumstances, are not thought to have anything other than a very mild sting if any sting we can feel at all.


Don't panic! 


Our big stingers, the Lion's Mane jellyfish, are not common, our stinging tropical visitors, the Portuguese Man o' War are very rare, and our other jellyfish have mild stings, so serious problems from stings are few and far between.


However, the advice has to be to be very careful about touching any jellyfish - either in the sea or on the beach because it is not always easy to identify them and it is possible individuals can react differently to how we might expect.


For more on jellyfish:


Our guide to identifying UK jellyfish


Why do jellyfish strand on our beaches?


See the right-hand column for advice on

dogs and jellyfish.



Have a look at our galleries of beach finds above.











Jellyfish as big as dustbin lids!









When jellyfish strand on beaches, it can be incredibly tempting for dogs to to go and investigate them.


Any contact with our big stingers - Lion's Mane jellyfish and Portuguese Man o' War - can be dangerous to dogs even if they have been beached for some time.


If your dog gets stung, thoroughly rinse the area with sea water and remove any tentacles and barbs as soon as you can.


If a dog becomes ill, take him or her straight a vet.


Anecdotally, I have known dogs play with and eat jellyfish such as Moon Jellyfish, with no ill effects. But I have also known dogs to vomit copiously after eating them - whether this is down to stings, to the quantitiy of jellies consumed or the salty water that came with them is not always clear.


If your dog does become ill in this way, best to get a vet to check them out.







1. Stings from Lion's Mane jellyfish and Portuguese Man o' War can be serious and medical help is advisable.


2. "You can treat some stings yourself using first aid. But if the symptoms are serious – such as severe pain, swelling or difficulty breathing – dial 999 to request an ambulance immediately." NHS.uk


3. With a sting on the face or genitals, get medical help. These can cause serious problems.


4. Jellyfish sting pain is usually short-lived (a matter of minutes). If pain is lasting, get medical help.


5. Get medical help for babies and young children with stings.



First Aid options for mild stings:


Remove any tentacles and barbs - tweezers are good for this.


Rinse the area thoroughly with sea water - not bottled or tap water.


There is different advice about whether vinegar is useful. It is used as a treatment for box jellyfish stings (in tropical areas) and may help with Portuguese Man o' War stings but can also worsen stings.


Advice changes. Go to www.nhs.uk for their current  information on treatment.


This page is no substitute for specialist medical advice and treatment.



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