Jellyfish Stings

The sweltering temperatures, the short skirts, the late nights … it can only mean one thing. Summer is here and it’s here to stay for a while!

Our activities change in summer, and therefore, so do the risks of harming ourselves.

Perhaps the biggest summer-related plague to hit the Maltese islands is the influx of jellyfish. Treatment for stings will depend on what has stung you and how severe your reaction is.

In any case, it is important to identify reactions which may be life-threatening. These include problems breathing, swelling of soft tissues and severe pain. If this is the case, contact an ambulance immediately. Medical attention may also be required if the patient has been stung in sensitive areas, such as the genitals or face.

Most jellyfish stings are mild. Treatment should take place out of the water and the victim should stay as still as possible.


Do not use vinegar as this may make things worse.

Also, ignore advice about urinating on the affected area.


Attempt to pick out any visible tentacles with a pair of tweezers.

The spread of toxins may be limited by applying shaving cream to the area.

Small poisonous sacs can be removed using something sturdy, such as a credit card.

Recent years have seen the rise of Portuguese man-o-war in our seas. Stings by this type of jellyfish are treated the same way, by removal of tentacles with tweezers and avoidance of vinegar and alcohol.

Use sea water to clean the area (not fresh water).

Soaking the affected area in hot water will help manage the pain. These stings usually don’t require medical attention, unless the pain lasts more than half an hour, or the area becomes infected.

You may also want to consider informing the relevant authorities about the presence of jellyfish in that particular bay. On the Maltese islands, most beaches have informative posters and contact details for this service.

Another stinging culprit is the sea urchin (what we call rizza in Maltese).

Wounds made by stepping on a sea urchin are usually puncture wounds. The affected area should be immersed in hot water for 30-90 minutes.

Tweezers can be used to remove any large spines. Smaller poisonous organs can be removed in the same way as jellyfish tentacles (shaving cream and credit card method). After removing all offensive components, scrub the area clean with soap and water and rinse with fresh water.

Do not close the wound or cover the area.