Coelenterate Sting

You have received a coelenterate sting. This class of animals contains the jelly-fish, coral, man-of-war, and anemones. Animals in this class cause injury on contact. They cause injury by firing of thousands of nematocysts (thread-like stingers) into the skin. Tentacles have the ability to fire their nematocysts long after the animal is dead. It is not safe to step on or touch a dead coelenterate lying on the beach without skin protection.These lesions (sores) start out as small, raised, red papules (small, raised bumps on skin) that are painful and itch. These papules may form blisters, become hemorrhagic (bloody), pustules (containing pus), and lose their skin. Total body reactions may occur. These reactions include headache, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), muscle pain and spasm, perspiration, changes in pulse rates, lacrimation (excessive tears from eyes), and chest pain.

ExitCare Image The man-of-war, box jelly fish, and sea wasp can all cause human death.


Remove tentacles while wearing rubber gloves or by using forceps. Tentacles may also be scraped off with (a credit card or similar object works well for scraping).

Analgesics (pain relievers) should be given right away, even for minor stings.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Place ice directly on the sting for comfort. Be careful not to leave ice sit for too long. This could cause damage from frostbite.

  • Vinegar will stop the stinging of the jelly fish. This is used in Australia for the Box Jelly Fish.

  • A mixture of half baking soda and half water will help ease the stinging of sea nettle.

  • ExitCare ImageUse ocean water wash for the Portuguese man-of-war sting.


Serious reactions may require advanced cardiovascular life support. This life support is available only through an emergency department or under advanced medical care.


  • Understand and follow these instructions.

  • Monitor your condition.

  • Get help right away if you are not doing well or getting worse.