How Much Do Jellyfish Stings Hurt?

How Much Do Jellyfish Stings Hurt?

How Much Does It Hurt?

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index was created by renowned entomologist Justin O. Schmidt. It is a pain scale that rates the relative pain caused by different insect stings.

Schmidt created his pain index (from 0 to 4) after being stung by 78 different species.

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet & reaching for the light switch.
1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.
2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a match head that flips off and burns on your skin.
3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.
3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic & burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
4.0 Tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair dryer has been dropped into your bubble bath.
4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

I do not know of a similar scale to describe the jellyfish stings,” commented Steven Munatones. “Most jellyfish stings cause pain, red marks, itching, numbness, or tingling. But some stings – like with the box jellyfish species – leads to excruciating acute pain and occasionally death in some cases.

Based on the experiences of open water swimmers, it would be interesting to develop a pain index for jellyfish stings.”

Studies have shown that overfishing, warmer temperatures and other human-caused variables have stacked up in favor of the jellyfish,” said Dr. Angel Yanagihara, a renowned jellyfish expert. “Some think the oceans are reverting back to a state resembles the primordial sea that existed even before invertebrates were on the planet.”

With the planet’s ocean water temperatures warming and becoming more more acidic as well as having more contaminants and algal blooms, jellyfish are thriving.

Jellyfish Pain Index 1.0 (draft subject to discussion and academic research):

1.0 Aurelia aurita is recognized as a non-venomous, non-painful and harmless species. [moon jellyfish]
2.0 Chrysaora melanaster [brown jellyfish]
2.5 Chrysaora pacifica [sea nettle] and Lion’s mane jellyfish
3.0 Carybdea brevipedalia [box jellyfish]
3.5 Chironex yamaguchii [box jellyfish of Japan]
4.0 Chironex fleckeri [box jellyfish of Australia]

For more information about the relative pain of jellyfish stings, read this Japanese study (Length Is Associated with Pain: Jellyfish with Painful Sting Have Longer Nematocyst Tubules than Harmless Jellyfish).

From our Coaches Education Program:

A spray bottle with household white vinegar is useful for jellyfish stings. Jellyfish tentacles release toxins upon contact. Regular white vinegar sprayed on the skin helps deactivate the venom release. Spraying on vinegar is more effective than rubbing the jellyfish tentacles off with your hands.

If you do not have vinegar, wash your skin off with ocean water and remove the tentacles with a towel.

If your athlete is stung by anything in the open water and experiences shortness of breath, vomiting, an allergic reaction, or other signs of shock, take them immediately to a doctor. Meat tenderizer and other local remedies are occasionally used, but vinegar is the gold standard for relief recommended by medical and scientific communities worldwide.

Top 100 Open Water Swimming Books

A collection of informative and educational open water swimming books for you to read to on shore. Send us your suggestions.

Freestyle Biomechanics

Freestyle Biomechanics is designed to assist Coaches, Teachers, and all Freestylers, with special tips for Triathletes and Open Water Swimmers. The 16-Section program covers all aspects of the Freestyle Stroke in detail.