I got stung by jellyfish and didn’t realize for 4 days

The first time I was stung by jellyfish I realized it almost immediately. I was vacationing on Edisto Island, South Carolina with some friends. Cathy and I were in the water when I felt something hit and partially wrap around my thighs. I understand that being in the ocean means dealing with things in the ocean, so I didn’t freak out. I casually pushed away what I presumed to be seaweed, but when I lifted my hand there were long clear tentacles hanging from my fingers. That’s when I noticed the burning.

Finding Nemo Jellyfish

I started rapidly walking back toward shore, which seemed very far away since it was low tide. Over my shoulder I told Cathy that I was stung by jellyfish and needed to go back to the house.

“What?” she asked while trying to catch up to my very brisk pace.

I didn’t know anything about rubbing sand in jellyfish stings, so I walked to our house a block away from the shore. I tried drowning the pain in the outdoor shower while people searched first aid manuals. (This was about 10 years ago. We didn’t have smart phones.)


I was however sprayed with Windex. I rubbed myself with very specific type of meat tenderizer from the Piggly Wiggly that people said would ease the sting. I used weird packets of green gel that were labeled for the purpose of soothing jellyfish stings.

Despite all that I was in hell.

The itching was so bad I couldn’t sleep. I’d get up in the middle of the night to take a shower just to try to get some relief.

When after nearly a week my thighs were still had bold red tentacle strips and blistering welts the size of dimes we visited a doctor on the island to see if I was having a particularly bad reaction.

Nope. Apparently that’s what happens when you get a bunch of jellyfish wrapped around your thighs.

I don’t recommend it.

The doctor gave me some hydrocortisone cream and told me to wait.

The itching lasted for several weeks. The scars from the welts were visible well into winter.

You would think after that ordeal I would be a bit of a jellyfish expert, but apparently I am not.

This past week I was vacationing with my family on Tybee Island, Georgia. After my first day at the beach I noticed a rash on my left shin and a bit of my right calf. I had no idea what caused it.

Some theories were suggested. Perhaps I had brushed up against a plant. Maybe bug bites. Perhaps I was having a reaction to the sunscreen or bug spray or the combination of the two.

I quickly dismissed the latter theory because although I have sometimes missed a spot or two when apply sunscreen or bug spray I have never forgotten to apply it to anywhere other than asymmetric portions of my lower legs. A reaction like that would certainly be on more than just those spots.

Still, what could this rash be?

I was treating it with hydrocortisone and Benadryl, but the itching and burning kept getting worse. It wasn’t until the fourth day when the rash started to for blistering welts (although much smaller than my previous experience) that I made the connection between my legs and the jellyfish we saw washed up on the beach periodically.

Sadly there wasn’t much more that knowledge could do for me other than persuade me to buy some overpriced jellyfish sting ointment at a surf shop.

But don’t worry. Although I was uncomfortable I didn’t let this ruin my vacation. I was still at the beach and in the water every single day. I mean, I had already been stung by jellyfish. There’s nothing else bad that can happen in the ocean, right?

Jaws Shark
This gif reminds me that a friend suggested this theory about my repeated jellyfish attacks, “Maybe they were sent by cyborg future Kim to prevent you from succumbing to a history altering shark attack.” This seems plausible.

Besides, having the salt water waves hitting my legs helped to ease the itching, particularly the day I forgot to take my Benadryl and while sitting in my beach chair it felt like my skin was shrinking while simultaneously the itch was actually emanating out from the bone and the only way to make it stop would be to claw away my flesh until I could reach it.

But I didn’t do that. I just went back in to the ocean.

So if you see me in pants or maxi dresses more often this summer it’s because I have a hideous (and currently still very itchy) jellyfish rash across my lower legs.

Some takeaways

  • I am a jellyfish magnet.
  • I’d rather that I be stung by jellyfish than for my kids to be stung by jellyfish.
  • For all that can be said about Lake Michigan at least there aren’t any jellyfish.
  • I still love the beach, although should probably consider wearing a scuba suit at all times.

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You can also find Kim Z. Dale on Twitter and Google+ and like Listing Beyond Forty on Facebook.

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