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Vinegar Exacerbates Jellyfish Stings

While vinegar is currently the recommended first aid treatment for box jellyfish stings in tropical Australia, new research published in the Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine Journal has found that it can increase discharge of the creature’s venom.

“Our research findings raise concerns that vinegar has the potential to do harm when used as first aid to treat box jellyfish stings,” said A/Prof Jamie Seymour of James Cook University.

The box jellyfish injects its venom from nematocysts, which occur primarily on the tentacles, but in some species may be present on the bell as well. “Through our in vitro experiments we discovered that vinegar promotes further discharge of venom from already discharged nematocysts,” added Dr Mark Little of JCU. “It may be time to reconsider first aid options for tropical Australian jellyfish stings.”

Seymour said that the Australian Resuscitation Council’s (ARC) current guidelines recommend the application of vinegar for all box jelly fish stings. “Our research shows this may not be the best course of action, and it’s now for the ARC to consider whether its protocol should be changed.”

In the meantime Seymour advises first responders to follow the fundamentals of first aid. “After being stung by a box jellyfish, medical aid should be given immediately, with prolonged CPR to maximise the chance of survival,” he said.