They may look innocuous, but jellyfish can pack a serious sting. And with some species benefitting from oceans warming due to climate change, the number of swimmers getting a nasty surprise in the water is likely to rise. There has long been a debate whether it’s best to treat jellyfish stings with heat or cold, and now a team from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa claims to have reached a definitive answer.
For their study, the researchers trawled through the databases of major scientific journal article databases to find every study examining the effects of using temperature-based treatments for jellyfish stings to date. After combing through more than 2,000 related articles, they discovered that the vast majority of evidence came out on the side of hot-water immersion.
“People think ice will help because jelly stings burn and ice is cold,” said Christie Wilcox, lead author of the paper. “And if you Google it, many sites – even those considered reputable – will tell you to put ice on a sting to dull the pain. But research to date has shown that all marine venoms are highly heat sensitive, thus hot water or hot packs should be more effective than cold packs or ice.”