Tuesday, January 20, 2004
What Would You Do: Jellyfish Sting
Chilly water could be the least of your worries, if you're thinking about going to the beach. Sometimes our beautiful blue waters have a bit of a sting to them. The Nightteam's Charles Perez explains what to do if you come upon a jellyfish or a man-o-war.
But for swimmers, they're one of the most dangerous.
Lt. Patrick Hendrick of the Hollywood Beach Patrol says, "They can be very serious. They can be painful ... They burn ... They hurt. It's like a chemical burn." Dead or alive a jelly fish or a Portuguese man-o-war can deliver a painful sting.
"Man-o-war, sea lice, jelly fish ... They break up .. they're still stinging you," says Lt. Hendrick.
This time of year the threat is the Portuguese man-o-war.
"The man-o-war is actually a colony of beings," says Lt. Hendrick.
"They look totally different," remarks Charles. "Which is more dangerous?"
"I would say the man-o-war is more dangerous."
They pile up on the beaches ... Looking like blue balloons.
"You see them along the shore line," says Lt. Hendrick. "That's a tell-tale sign."
But, step on one ... swim into it's tentacles .. and you're in for one heck of an ouch.
"The man-o-war sting itself is more concentrated toxin than the rattle snake," says Lt. Hendrick.
The man-o-war tentacles wrap around your arms and legs, leaving red welts.
The treatment ... common household vinegar.
Lt. Hendricksays, "We'll put vinegar on it, which will denatures the tentacle."
"Which means what, it counter acts it?" asks Charles.
"It counter acts, it kills it .. it stops the stinging process."
But stopping the sting may not solve the problem.
The toxin of a man-o-war for some people can lead to anaphylactic shock.
"But the thing we're concerned about is if they start to feel swelling in the tongue, tightness in the throat, which means their airway is becoming compromised," says Lt. Hendrick.
Year-round ... we also see the moon jelly ...
"Many of the species, like the moon jelly fish is translucent," says Lt. Hendrick, "means if you put that in the water, you can't see it, so that's very difficult."
Difficult ... because often ... you're stung without even seeing it.
Fortunately, for most people ... it's only a bit of discomfort ... at least the first couple of times.
"The amount of times that you get stung," says Lt. Hendrick, "the next time you get stung it's more severe, the next time more severe and the next time more severe."
So what do you do?
First ... stay aware. If you see clear blobs of jelly in the sand or blue bubbles on the beach ... it's a pretty good indication of what's in the water.
"It's a lot easier to prevent the man-o-war sting than to treat it," says Lt. Hendrick.
Second ... watch the flags ... Most life guard stations put up warnings ...
"If they're gonna have a problem with jellyfish or man-o-war, they're gonna see a number 4 or a blue," says one lifeguard.
If you do come upon a man-o-war or a jellyfish in the water ... move away slowly. Jelly fish don't attack ... so if you can get out of it's path, you won't get stung.
And finally ... be prepared.
Now, in addition to packing that sun tan lotion, if there's one thing else you can remember, it's... take an old spray bottle, fill it up with some vinegar and take it to the beach... just in case you get stung.
Next week, Charles has some important info. for all women.
He's going to demonstrate how to avoid being the victim of an attack.
That's next Tuesday, at ten.
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