Oceanic adventures abound from kitesurfing and windsurfing to snorkeling and scuba diving. But nothing puts a damper on a great adventure like getting stung by a jellyfish, unless, of course, you know how to handle one. Then jellyfish can become part of your adventure! For beachgoers, the possibility of a shark sighting may be on the minds of some, but chances are pretty slim that one will be spotted. Jellyfish sightings, on the other hand, are not so rare an occurrence.
Most people equate jellyfish with warnings like “Beware!” “Don’t step on it!” and “Touch it and you’ll be in the hospital!”. Rightly so. Jellyfish may be 95% water, but they can pack a painful and dangerous sting. The average person, though, has never heard how to safely handle a jellyfish. Before working a short stint at a local aquarium, I had never heard either. In fact, a recent internet search I did on the subject turned up little. So, consider yourself in an elite group.
Now that you're overcome with curiosity, here's the "fun fact" that few beachgoers are privy to: Only the tentacles of a jellyfish sting. The dome-shaped part of the jellyfish (called the bell or hood) can actually be touched. The president of the Lebanese Union of Divers, Mohammed al-Sarji, even goes so far as to kiss them! Personally, I like to keep my face a safe distance away. Jellyfish tentacles can be extremely long and they have a way of floating all over the place. (Apparently, the largest jellyfish can reach 8ft. in diameter with tentacles as long as half the length of a football field!)
Now before you set out to make “jellyfish-handling” the next great reality t.v. show, remember to exercise caution and common sense. This tidbit of information should not to be taken lightly. Picking up a jellyfish washed up on the shore is one thing. By the time you see one in the ocean, it’s tentacles may have already reached you. If you or someone you know has the misfortune of being stung by one, experts recommend washing off any tentacles with salt water or removing the tentacles with tweezers and then treating the affected area with vinegar to neutralize the toxin.
Now you've been informed and warned... so this summer when you want to impress your friends, you can courageously demonstrate how to handle a jellyfish and live to tell the tale!