Tuesday 28 March 2017

'Wee' cure for beach sting is myth

Holidaymakers have been advised to use seawater or vinegar as a quick pain-relief method if stung by a jellyfish
Holidaymakers have been advised to use seawater or vinegar as a quick pain-relief method if stung by a jellyfish

People heading away to British beaches as the school summer holidays start have been given some unusual advice - don't wee on yourself.

The British Red Cross issued the warning after marine scientists said the UK's coastal waters could turn into a "jellyfish soup" this summer, with soaring numbers swarming to our seas.

The charity said the myth of urine being the best immediate way to treat a sting is just that. It is advising anyone who has been stung to use a simpler - and less unpleasant - method of combating stings.

"A sting from a jellyfish can be extremely painful, but trying to treat it with urine isn't going to make your day any better," said Joe Mulligan, the British Red Cross's head of first aid. "Urine just doesn't have the right chemical make-up to solve the problem. If people have been stung, they need to get out of the water to avoid getting stung again. Once out, slowly pouring seawater over the sting will help ease the pain.

"Doing the same thing with vinegar can be even more effective as the acid helps neutralise the jellyfish sting. But unless you're near a chip shop, seawater will probably be easier to find."

The number of jellyfish inhabiting our waters is on the rise, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has warned, with pollution, over-fishing and climate change among the theories explaining the increase.

After events such as the temporary closure of the Torness nuclear power station near Dunbar in Lothian, Scotland, at the end of June due to swarms of moon jellyfish blocking its water intake cooling systems, the MCS is asking beach-goers to take part in its crowd-sourced survey of jellyfish numbers to learn more about them.

Jellyfish are the staple diet of critically-endangered leatherback turtles, seasonal visitors to British waters that migrate from their tropical nesting beaches to feed on the jellyfish blooms. Examination of dead leatherbacks stranded on UK shores have revealed that they feed on several species.

By comparing the distribution of jellyfish with environmental factors such as sea temperature, plankton production and current flow, scientists hope to understand what influences the seasonal distribution of jellyfish and leatherbacks in UK waters. Species usually seen in British waters are the barrel, moon, compass, blue and lion's mane jellyfish.

Those brave enough to get close to the jellyfish are being urged to "look but not touch". Although most of the species have only a mild sting, some, like the lion's mane which usually comes as far south as the Irish Sea and Norfolk, have a strong - but non-fatal - sting.

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