Compared to hurricanes and sharks, a jellyfish sting is obviously the lesser of the other evils that could plague visitors who opt for a splash while lazing about the beaches of Florida. That's a major consolation given the perspective for sure but when a large number of unwitting waders and swimmers are zapped by those creatures, well, you've got a painful cause for concern on your hands.
Last week, up to 1,200 water worshipers suffered from jellyfish stings on the beach bordering Volusia County, near Daytona. And while none of the injuries to the swimmers was life-threatening, the presence of these gelatinous invaders could take the sting out of tourism prospects in the area.
"This number is very high," said Tamara Malphurs, an information officer for Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue. "It's not something that happens more than once a year on average."
Because jellyfish stings aren't very common at the county beach, there are no statistics to indicate how many people annually are on the receiving end of the jellyfish's painful tentacles, normally used in self-defence and to disable smaller prey for food.
There's also no peak season for these aquatic animals, who don't have the ability to propel themselves to attractive feeding grounds. Instead, they go with the flow of ocean currents that carry them along to points unknown. If those currents pushing a group of jellyfish happen to pass a public beach, there could be up to a hundred stinging incidents a day in that area.
But officials don't think there's a huge group waiting out there in the water to wreak havoc on more human visitors. It just so happens that Volusia County has been experiencing quite a bit of traffic at the beach, especially on the weekends, increasing the likelihood that sooner or later, someone's going to get stung.
If anyone does get stung by a jellyfish, however, there are several steps that can be taken to mitigate the pain. First, get out of the water immediately and let someone know you've been stung. More proactive folks might likely have vinegar on hand to pour over the area (don't rub or scrape it or use water) to cut down on the pain. If any tentacles are lodged in your skin, take a pair of tweezers to remove it. Also, make sure a doctor checks out the wound, even though the pain from a sting usually disappears after a few minutes.
In more severe cases, if anyone betting stung, has trouble swallowing or breathing, experiences nausea, headaches, muscle spasms, or swollen lips and tongue, seek medical attention immediately.