Update on Vinegar use when you get stung in the water

Vinegar No Longer Included In My Dive Bag

A combination of an article on ScubaBoard and DAN Jelly Fish Sting recommendation gives an interesting new development regarding the use of vinegar when somebody is stung by jelly fish. As already mentioned in an earlier article in my blog about the Box Jelly Fish around Asia and a death that occurred on Koh Lanta earlier this year, here vinegar is still useful!

DAN's "Diver Alert" magazine has an update an article in the May/June 2008 issue called; "Sting Update" with the surprise recommendation not to use vinegar on jellyfish stings other than the Indo-Pacific Box Jelly*.

Current suggestions for jellyfish stings include...

1-Flush with sea water, not fresh water;
2-Soak in hot water or hot shower around 113F/45C for 30 to 90 minutes ASAP;
3-Remove any remaining tentacles with tweezers;
4-Shave with shaving cream and razor or scrape with credit card;
5-Apply hydrocortisone cream or ointment - I carry that;
6-Monitor for reaction or infection;
And more, you also carry antihistamine tablets and include those in your personal treatment and suggestions.

There was a special note on Men-of-War: No vinegar! It actually causes those nematocytes to discharge.

*The one exception given is for the Chironex fleckeri of Box Jelly found in some waters between Australia and Asia. This one is probably the most deadly animal for its size other than man, but if you survive long enough to get back on the boat - do use vinegar on that wound.

There are chironex species in and near the Caribbean perhaps, maybe not the same specie - not generally considered the same threat at all. Vinegar may or many not be good with those other box jellies...?

A General Orientation to What DAN is Recommending

Vinegar has a very long history of substantial benefit in the treatment of marine envenomations of various sorts (e.g., fire corals, white stinging hydroids) that can occur when scraping encrusted pipes and boat bottoms, grabbing encrusted ropes or just inadvertently coming into contact with reefs, corals and sponges.

DAN is not advocating ceasing the immediate application of copious quantities of vinegar when such accidents occur.

What DAN is responding to is the increasing concern that certain marine envenomations, such as those by specific members of the jellyfish family, can be made worse by applying vinegar and other products like alcohol, Windex, urine and meat tenderizer, as these may cause unfired nematocytes to discharge.
The osmotic differential created by flushing with fresh rather than salt water also may cause this event to occur.

In short, after having a run-in with a jellyfish follow DAN's guidelines. But, if you are sure the offending creature was a fire coral, feathery hydroid or kindred hydrozoan, vinegar is your friend.

This is educational only and does not constitute or imply a doctor-patient relationship. It is not medical advice to you or any other individual, and should not be construed as such.


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