Nothing can ruin a fun day at the beach like getting stung by something hiding in the water, so it always helps to be prepared. All kinds of marine life can sting you, but there are different ways of treating these wounds which heavily depends on what hurt you in the first place.
We at Apegeo always want you to be prepared so you can enjoy your time under the sun! That’s why we’ve compiled a list of marine animals that can sting you along with instructions on what to do if it happens. Don’t forget to check our bonus feature that shows one of the earth’s most surprising marine animals that has a powerful sting.
1. Portuguese man-of-war
The Portuguese man-of-war is a complicated creature found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. It’s not actually a single being, but rather, a “colonial organism” made up of different animals and polyps that cannot survive on their own. It injects poison into its victims through its tentacles, causing the victim to suffer from chest pain, difficulty breathing, and even death.
Habitat: Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans
Treatment: Over the years, there have been many “home remedies” people used to treat the stings from alcohol, sea water, and shaving cream to urine and baking soda. However, a recent study claims that applying warmth and vinegar to the wound is the best option. Try to contact medical services in case of an emergency.
Unlike the Portuguese man-of-war, the jellyfish is a singular organism. These marine animals usually are free-swimming in the ocean but some are anchored to the sea bed by stalks. Their tentacles have microscopic stinging cells that are normally used to catch prey or as a defense. Normally, the sting causes pain and redness. In more serious cases, their stings can cause serious illnesses and even death.
Habitat: All over the world, from surface waters to deep in the ocean
Treatment: As mentioned above, urine is a popular treatment for these stings, but it’s just an old wive’s tale. Similar to how you’d treat a Portuguese man-of-war sting, vinegar and warmth are the best treatment options. You must also make sure to remove any tentacles with tweezers, not by scraping them off. Also, try to identify the jellyfish. Lion’s mane jellyfish, sea nettle jellyfish, and box jellyfish can do serious damage with their sting, so try to get medical treatment as soon as possible.
3. Sea anemone
Despite looking like plants, sea anemones are actually marine animals. Armed with cnidocyte-stinging cells, they inject venom and a mix of toxins and neurotoxins into their victims through a cell explosion. Normally, sea anemones don’t attack humans but it has happened in rare cases, and humans have also been stung by sea anemones washed ashore. In serious cases, the venom can cause death.
Habitat: The Indian and Pacific Oceans
Treatment: Treating the wound depends on what type of sea anemone stung you, the number of toxins injected and how the person reacted to it. Generally, the spines need to be removed, which can be treated with seawater. The wound also needs to be cleaned. Similar to jellyfish wounds, vinegar can treat the pain. Topical antibiotics and painkillers might be needed to dull the pain. In serious cases, people should contact medical services.
Stingrays are a type of sea rays, related closely to sharks. They generally do not attack humans, but can when provoked, like if they’re stepped on. Unlike the previously mentioned creatures, they attack with a spinal blade instead of tentacles. They aren’t normally lethal to humans, but there have been a few reported cases, most notably the death of Australian conservationist and television personality Steve Irwin in 2016.
Habitat: Around the world, especially in tropical and subtropical areas
Treatment: Normally, the stingray’s sting is only lethal if it touches a vital area. In more serious cases, surgery might be needed to remove the animal’s barb or “stinger” which can get dislodged during the attack using tweezers. Clean the area but don’t close it or cover it with stitches. Pressure can be used to stop any bleeding and antibiotics can help treat pain and infection. In more cases, serious injuries should be treated with medical services.