Wednesday, January 26, 2011
How to avoid dying from deadly Jellyfish
For the previous post, we talked about certain kinds of non-lethal jellyfish. As for this post, we’ll be identifying the kinds of deadly Jellyfish that you don’t want to meet when you’re down under the sea and what to do if ever you get stung.
The Box Jelly – It’s also known as the Sea Wasp or Chironex Fleckeri. It’s found off the shores of Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This marine animal has a boxy bell head the size of a basket ball, 4 parallel brains [one on each corner], 24 eyes and 60 arseholes.
There are 5,000 deadly stinging cells on each of its 10- 60, two meter long tentacles. They are usually a problem from October to May. They are the most toxic creatures on Earth. These are the symptoms of an attack of the Box Jelly:
- Severe pain
- Headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Skin swelling/wounds/redness
- Difficulty breathing, swallowing and speech
- Shivering, sweating
- Irregular pulse/heart failure
Irukandji jellyfish – Irukandji jellyfish are very small, with a bell about one centimeter wide and four tentacles, which range in length from just a few centimeters to up to 35 cm in length. The stingers (nematocysts) are in clumps, appearing as rings of small red dots around the bell and along the tentacles. They are found in Australia.
They are known as Irukandji jellyfish because they cause symptoms known as Irukandji syndrome (a condition that is induced by venomization that is seldom fatal, but if immediate medical action is not taken, within only 20 minutes the victim could go into cardiac arrest and die). They are usually a trouble from November to May, though recently they have been recorded present in all months except July and August. The most common known jellyfish of this type are Carukia barnesi and Malo kingi. Symptoms of an attack:
- Lower back pain, intense headache.
- Muscle cramps and shooting pains, nausea, vomiting.
- Catastrophically high blood pressure.
- Restlessness and feeling of impending doom.
- Death from heart failure or fluid on the lungs.
Of course we won’t leave you with just these symptoms of death and doom. So here’s what you should do when you get stung by one of these deadly Jellies:
- Rinse the area with sea water. Do not scrub or wash with fresh water which will aggravate the stinging cells. Do not pour sun lotion or spirit-based liquid on the area.
- Deactivate remaining cells with a vinegar rinse before removing them; otherwise inactive nematocysts may be triggered. If no vinegar is available use urine – but NOT for Box jelly and Irukandji stings. Ask a mate for a golden shower! Really! Preferably male urine as it’s considered to be more sterile
- Lift off any remaining tentacles with a stick or something similar.
- If cells still linger, dust with flour and carefully scrape off with a blunt knife.
- After all tentacle sections have gone, pain can be treated with a cold pack and/or a local anesthetic such as a sunburn lotion or insect bite treatment that lists ‘ocaine’ as an ingredient.
- If there is continued swelling, or itchiness, apply a light steroid cream e.g. Hydrocortisone eczema cream.
- If muscle spasms persist see a doctor.
Some additional treatment for the Box Jelly.
- Use pressure-immobilization on limbs if possible. e.g. quickly wrap a light bandage above and below the sting (if you can’t get two fingers under the bandage, it’s too tight).
- Immobilize/splint the stung area and keep it at heart level [gravity-neutral] if possible. Too high causes venom to travel to the heart, too low causes more swelling.
- Do not drink alcohol, or take any medicine or food.
Now that you’ve read all these information, I believe it’s still best to remind ourselves of these basic yet very helpful guidelines.
- Take extreme precautions if you have an existing heart condition as Jellyfish deaths are normally attributed to cardiac arrest [or pulmonary congestion]. You are in great danger from the Toxic Boxes’ venomous sting unless treated immediately as the pain is so excruciating that you may go into shock and drown before reaching the shore. So swim with a partner if possible.
- Avoid swimming in the October-May high-jelly season.
- Wetsuits or Lycra ’stinger suits’ offer good protection especially the sophisticated models with hands, neck and head coverage. Feet may be covered by fins or swimming shoes.
- Take notice of warnings! Bathing areas prone to toxic jellies may have safety signs.
Keep your eyes peeled when swimming in areas where the more dangerous variety live (though Irukandji jellyfish are very small and barely visible to see, so accomplish first steps first before relying on this one).
With these in mind and heart I believe you will be able to achieve a more wonderful and wary diving experience. Make sure that you have a healthy heart, because that is the organ that is directly affected by Jellyfish venom. Cardiac arrest is mostly the cause of death by jellyfish. That’s why Will Smith died in the movie 7 Pounds, not because he was electrocuted by some jellyfish (whoops, spoiler alert… haha).
Jellyfish are wonderful creatures, and they will treat you wonderfully too if you treat them and their habitat in the same manner.
Thanks to Sean from Expedition Fleet Liveboards