Unusual surge of jellyfish on Volusia beaches sparks concerns

2,400 Volusia beachgoers treated for stings in past two weeks

By Clay LePard - Reporter, Brianna Volz - Web producer

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - The beaches in Volusia County continue to deal with jellyfish problems as thousands of people are still being treated for stings. 

Officials with the Volusia County Beach Safety said Tuesday that over the past 10-12 days, they've treated more than 2,400 people for jellyfish stings. There were 550 stings reported in Volusia County on Tuesday alone, officials said.

On Saturday, officials said they treated 282 jellyfish stings. 

Additionally, the yellow and purple flags flew Tuesday and Beach Safety officials rescued two people from the ocean, one of whom was transported to Bert Fish Hospital as a precaution. The 15-year-old Orlando girl was treated and released.

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The jellyfish stings are a concern, despite the fact that none of them resulted in any major injuries.

"You can barely see it, but it got me right here," 12-year-old Palmer Wynne said as he showed his knee. "I don't know how to describe it, but it really, really burns."

The bottle of vinegar was almost empty at one lifeguard stand, where crews are required to keep the liquid for when they have to treat jellyfish stings. 

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"This has probably been the worst summer in a long time," Mary Lane, an instructor with the Jimmy Lane Surfing Academy, said. 

Lane found herself with a jellyfish wrapped around most of her torso Monday afternoon and had to peel it off. 

Beach safety officials said the surge in jellyfish is a bit unusual, as they typically blow offshore after a couple hours or days. But because the winds and the waves haven't changed, safety leaders said the jellyfish are staying on the shoreline. 

But some beachgoers said Tuesday that the jelly-like creatures won't cause them to change their plans. 

"I let them swim and nobody has screamed yet, so I guess it's all good for now," Orlando resident Isabelle Welsh said.  

"If I get stung, I put vinegar back on and go right back out," Lane said. "It's not going to deter me from the ocean." 

Officials are recommending anyone stung by a jellyfish to exit the water and flag down a lifeguard truck or go to a staffed tower. Jellyfish stings can be painful and a lifeguard can rinse the area with vinegar, which is a common treatment. 

If you or someone you know is stung, the vinegar is just one option. Use the following tips, courtesy of WebMD.com, for further treatment:

Right after sting
First, get out of the water. The only thing that could make a jellyfish sting hurt more is suffering another one. Eliminate that risk by staying clear of the jelly-like creatures.

Next, try to stop the stinging by rinsing the area that was stung with vinegar for at least 30 seconds, WebMD recommends. Experts also encourage trying to remove the tentacles from the wound using a pair of tweezers.

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Once you remove the tentacles, soak the area that was stung in hot water, specifically ranging in temperature from 104 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit, for at least 20 minutes, the site recommended. If you’d rather take a hot shower instead, experts say that serves as an alternative to soaking the area, as long as you stay in the shower for 20 to 45 minutes.

The website mentions that these treatment recommendations are based on research done in the Indo-Pacific areas and isn’t guaranteed to work for all stings.

After initial treatment
Stings can make you itchy and uncomfortable for a while after the initial sting goes away. WebMD recommends sting victims use a mild hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamine to bring temporary relief.

Ice packs and over-the-counter pain relievers or antihistamines can be used to treat the welts that come after a sting.

Experts also recommend cleaning open sores three times per day and applying antibiotic ointment. If necessary, use bandages to cover the wound.

The tips above should bring relief after a sting, but there are scenarios where swimmers or other sting victims should seek more intense treatment.

According to WebMD, you should call authorities or other emergency responders if the person is showing any signs of a severe allergic reaction. Redness and itchiness are common, but continue to monitor the area and victim’s behavior for more severe reactions.

The website also recommends calling 911 if the sting is from a box jellyfish or if it covers more than half of the victim’s arm or leg.

For more information on how to treat jellyfish stings or what to look for after they take place, click here.

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