Some of the most popular local remedies for treating jellyfish stings are probably making your pain worse, not better, according to a study by researchers at the University of Hawaii.
The results, published in the journal Toxins, claim that even some of the most highly-regarded online sources for medical advice -- including WebMD and the Mayo Clinic's website -- recommend treatments that could increase pain from jellyfish stings.
Both websites suggest victims treat sting areas with saltwater before scraping tentacles away with an object such as a credit card.
“We put those methods to the test in the lab, and found they actually make stings much, much worse,” said Dr. Angel Yanagihara, an assistant professor at the UHM Pacific Biosciences Research Center.
Contrary to popular advice, the study found no evidence that saltwater reduced the impact of jellyfish stings, suggesting instead that dousing the tentacles with water could actually increase the surface area of the sting.
Scraping the tentacles away with a plastic object was similarly debunked as an effective treatment. The study claimed that simply plucking them off with tweezers led to less venom injection.
Applying ice to a Hawaiian box jellyfish sting also "severely exacerbated" the pain, the study said.
Instead, the study recommends rinsing wounds with vinegar, which " irreversibly prevents the stinging cells from firing." Applying heat to the affected area also actively decreased venom activity, the study found.
“The increases in venom injection and activity we saw in our study from methods like scraping and applying ice could mean the difference between life and death in a serious box jelly sting,” Dr. Yanagihara said.