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Baja Jellyfish

The warm waters off the soft sandy beaches of Baja are as inviting as any shore around the world. It may impossible for anyone to not be lured into the waters off Baja. While it may look like paradise on earth, there are dangers lurking in the blue green waters, mostly off shore but sometimes right along the surf. The danger comes in the form or a transparent, flowing, and uniquely odd looking creature call the jellyfish.

Jellyfish can be almost hypnotic in the way they float and dangle in the waters. Some can very small in size from a few inches long while others can reach three feet in diameter. The tentacles of jellyfish can be three times longer than the size of their bodies. This is where the danger lies. The tentacles of jellyfish have protein based venom that can cause quite a reaction when they sting and release the venom into human skin. Even more dangerous, the nematocysts, or tentacles, can sometimes be left in the skin causing the sting to be even more painful.

The best way to avoid finding out just how bad your reaction may be to a jellyfish sting is to avoid them altogether. They are usually found at eye level when you snorkel just below the surface. It is never a good idea to handle jellyfish. Even when washed up on shore, which they do in groups sometimes, it is wise to leave them alone. Unfortunately, because of their colorless bodies, it can be easy to not notice you are swimming right into one or stepping on one onshore.

If you are stung by a jellyfish, the sting will cause pain. Itching is also a common reaction. Remember to use caution after the sting as the tentacle may be still in your skin. If you are helping another sting victim, try to wear gloves to avoid getting stung yourself. Because your reaction can not be predicted, it is advisable to get medical help as soon as possible.

What to do - If you are not able to seek immediate medical care:
  • To ease the pain and minimize your reaction; immediately rinse the site with hot water, as hot as you can stand it to be. You can also use salt water. 
  • Carefully remove any tentacles to minimize the toxins released into your skin. Vinegar is best for reducing the immediate pain and also for disinfecting. You will want to take a pain reliever also. *FYI - The old myth of urinating on the site, it is not a recommended course of action. While anecdotally it may provide temporary pain relief, it is still not the best route.
Know that the pain may last one to two days, consider yourself lucky if this is the extent of your reaction. Anaphylaxis is the most severe reaction that can occur. If you get stung or are with someone who has been stung for the first time, keep a watchful eye for shortness of breath, wheezing, tight throat, hives, flushed skin, weakness or dizziness.

Very important for visitors and locals to be aware that different types of jellyfish have different levels of toxicity; therefore a sting by one kind can result in a dramatically different reaction than the sting of another. Avoidance of jellyfish or admiration from afar can make your snorkeling or swimming trip into the waters of Baja a much more pleasant experience.

by: Benjamin Eugene / Originally posted: Sept. 2010 / BGLC Origanal

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