Forget the vinegar to treat jellyfish stings; Haifa lab says it can even make it worse

September 16, 2014 19:05
1 minute read.

Jellyfish [File]. (photo credit: INIMAGE)

If you or your family have been stung by jellyfish, pay no attention to the conventional advice to rub the painful spot with vinegar.

University of Haifa scientists who have tested this reaction under the microscope insist that not only does the acetic acid not help, it makes the sting worse.

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Dr. Tamar Lotan, who has a marine biology lab, said the vinegar treatment “is a myth.” Experiments in her lab for Thursday’s Night of Scientists showed that vinegar can make the sting even more widespread and painful.

She explained on Tuesday that the myth developed from the fact that vinegar tests on jellyfish were performed on “box jellyfish,” which are different from jellyfish species Rhopilema nomadic, more commonly known as the “nomad jellyfish,” which spend their summers off the coasts of Israel.

Lotan and her team collected a large number of jellyfish arms, each of which contains millions of tiny stinging vesicles that look like tiny syringes.

When they make contact with human skin, each of these develops pressure of 150 atmospheres, 70 times the air pressure in car tires. This causes the toxin to be released and enter the skin as though it were a bullet shot from a pistol.

After identifying the “syringes” as being full of toxin, the researchers mixed in plain cider vinegar. Within a few seconds, the vesicles began to “shoot” out more stingers rather than fewer.

The best way to treat the sting, said Lotan, was to wash the skin with seawater. If the burn covers a large area, or if the reaction, such as swelling, is serious or is an allergic reaction, go for medical treatment.

Lotan and colleagues will lecture on Night of Scientists at her university about the fascinating world of jellyfish, which appeared more than 500 million years ago and have engineering capabilities that man has never been able to copy or even explain.

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