Going Swimming? Beware of Jellyfish!


True HealthSwimming is fun, but if you love going to the beach for this summer pastime, watch out for jellyfish that could kill you!

Marine biologists say these aquatic creatures are everywhere and you could get stung if you get in their way. In the Philippines, jellyfish season is from April to May, but these animals can appear anytime due to climate change.

Jellyfish can be less than an inch or grow up to seven feet long. They are not really fish but plankton and their tentacles can be a hundred feet long. These animals are made of 98 percent water and they have no bones. Like some politicians, they have no brain or heart either!

JellyfishThousands of Stingers

These creatures don’t attack humans, but if you bump into them, you could be in trouble. To stop predators, the jellyfish’s tentacles are packed with venom from thousands of stingers. The sting is not always fatal to humans since this depends on the species, the size of the jellyfish, and the person’s age and health.

Victims normally experience a burning or throbbing pain, swelling, itching, and red marks on the skin. Others may experience severe reactions hours after being stung. Symptoms include stomach pain, headache, weakness, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. There may be difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, and heart problems.

Jellyfish washed up on the beach are just as dangerous so keep your distance. They may still release venom if touched and you don’t want that to happen.

Anne Curtis survived a jellyfish attack (Photo courtesy of short-biography.com).

Famous Victim

In the Philippines, the most famous jellyfish victim is Kapamilya star Anne Curtis. The incident happened in 2014 while Anne was in Batangas. Luckily, she survived her encounter with the deadly box jellyfish locally known as quatro cantos.

Box jellyfish are so-named because they resemble a box with four sides. This deadly species is known for its painful sting that can kill a person who is attacked on the chest or face.

Other species, like the common Aurelia or Moon jellyfish, are not as deadly, but just as troublesome. These critters were responsible for the huge blackout that affected the whole of Luzon, including Metro Manila, on the night of December 10, 1999.

At that time, people went into a panic and entertained all kinds of crazy ideas. They thought there was a plot to overthrow then President Joseph Estrada. Others believed the blackout was the aftermath of the much-hyped Y2K bug.

An investigation later showed that the problem was caused by a smack of jellyfish that blocked the water-cooling pump at the Sual Power Plant in Pangasinan. Authorities said it took 50 trucks to remove the swarm of jellyfish in the area.

Safety Measures

Although experts say the first recorded human deaths from jellyfish stings occurred in Pangasinan, attacks can happen anywhere. In fact, this is common in people who swim, dive or wade in seawater.

Jellyfish bloom

To avoid being stung, don’t swim if there are large numbers of jellyfish or a jellyfish bloom in the water. Wear protective clothing and footwear while swimming or diving and avoid sunbathing on the beach if the creatures are around.

If you had the misfortune of being stung, rinse the area with vinegar and pluck out the visible tentacles with a pair of tweezers. Soak the area in hot water for 20 to 45 minutes. Don’t apply seawater, fresh water, alcohol, or urine on the skin. For severe reactions, go to the nearest hospital.

The next time you see a jellyfish, resist the urge to act like SpongeBob SquarePants and don’t catch one. Keep a safe distance away. Your life could depend on it.

National Press Club and Philippine Dental Association awardee George Nava True II is the author of three health books based on his popular medical column that has been running for over 30 years. For inquiries, email george.true@mb.com.ph or text 09331366645.


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