With all the strong on-shore East winds this time of year, inevitably this helps to contribute to increased numbers of stinging jellyfish off our beaches being blown in close to shore. It seems the more common “moon jellies” don’t pose much of a stinging risk, but the nasty little Portuguese man o’ war can deliver a truly painful sting. I was unlucky enough to find this out yesterday.
I was out doing my normal daily paddle off of Delray’s public beach around 5pm just after leaving the shop. The wind had backed-off a tad and I was seriously jonesing to get some water therapy in. As I began my session I couldn’t help buy notice the indigo blue mini “sails” off the man o’ war here and there. Never good when they are thick, but up to this point I have never had a bad encounter with one, although I have heard from other people who have. If the man o’ war are around you can’t miss them. Their blue sails sit about 3-4″ above the waterline, and almost look like a blown-up piece of blue bubblegum . Normally what you don’t see are the long stinging tentacles (sometimes yards long) that trail underneath the jelly.
I caught a crumbler wave with my 10′ North 2 SUP and fell off towards the end of the wave, as it crumbled sideways on it self. I came up out of the water on the side of my board and felt something on my left ear and cheek. Almost immediately I felt a slight stinging sensation. I reached up and felt the gooey tentacles still attached to my ear a bit. I dipped my head back underwater while scrapping away what was left on my face. As I exited the water and started towards the beach shower the sting started setting in, but still not bad. It really kicked in good once I began washing it off with the cool fresh water out of the beach shower. Knowing what I do now, after some research on the subject, it is best to not use cool or cold water to wash off the remnants of the jelly since the change in water temp helps set off the stinging cells in the tentacles. Also a change in PH from salt to fresh can do the same without heat.
By the time I got to my truck my ear and side of my face was kicking! Just under unbearable. I raced home and reached for the vinegar and doused my face with it…no real diminishing in pain. Of course I jumped on the computer and looked for at-home remedies, another said shaving cream…tried this and it actually helped a bit, but my saving grace was HOT, as HOT as you can stand shower water. It seems the hot water turns off, or at least helps to deactivate the stinging proteins. After hitting that hot water almost immediately the pain went way down, and after about an hour to an hour and half (and two beers and Advil later) it was over, and like nothing had ever happened.
So if you can get to a hot water source after a encounter with one of these little suckers, try and get to it quick! So HOT water, beer, and Advil…in that order! See you on the water!