They’re difficult to see, and their 10-foot long barbed tentacles contain venom that’s so lethal it’s considered to be one of the deadliest creatures on Earth. What is a box jellyfish? What part of the world can you find them?
If someone gets stung, should you pee on them? If you want to survive this lethal attack, follow these steps.
Step 1: Run
OK, swim. You’ll want to get away as fast as you can. Box jellyfish are intentional swimmers, meaning they can propel themselves in your direction, unlike other kinds of jellyfish that simply float along with the current.
Scientists have identified more than 2,000 types of jellyfish, 50 kinds of box jellyfish. And being stung by one can kill you. A study of stinging incidents on a Thai beach found that six out of 15 were deadly.
If you do get stung, at first it will first feel like you’ve been bitten, but there will be not be any evidence of an attacker. The sting will have come from the jellyfish’s tentacles, which make jellyfish Mother Nature’s stinging machines. Each tentacle contains thousands of stinging cells. Go deeper, and you’ll find nematocysts. Inside each nematocyst is a stinging thread, coiled and ready to be launched. They can fire a microscopic harpoon at 60 km/h (37 mph). Inside that harpoon is a spiny, hollow tube that injects the venom into its victim.
Now, you’ll need to get medical attention right away. In only three minutes, a box jellyfish sting can be fatal. Your heart is about to start racing as your body freaks out and shuts down. Muscle spasms, extreme fatigue, and confusion will set in quickly, and you’ll have difficulty breathing.
Scientist Angel Yanagihara suffered this horrific sting in 1997, in Hawaii, while studying for her Ph.D. Only 500 m (1,640 feet) offshore, she swam into a swarm of box jellyfish. It was early, before dawn, and she didn’t see a thing. But she felt the stinging in her neck and arms, and her lungs felt like they were on fire and starting to collapse.
Miraculously, she made her way back to shore. And three days later, after recovering enough to get out of bed, she decided to dedicate her life to studying these jellyfish and help save people from their fatal venom.
Step 2: Remove the Stingers
You’ll need to work quickly to find and remove the stingers. If you’re the person doing the removing, use tweezers, a credit card, or some other tool. You don’t want to come in contact with the venom. Removing the stingers will also prevent more poison from entering the person’s bloodstream. Don’t use fresh water on the wounds because that will make the pain even worse.
Treat the wounded areas with vinegar. This won’t be difficult as the stinging tentacles will leave thick, rope-like marks on the victim’s body. The vinegar will help stop the venom from spreading and provide some pain relief. And, I don’t care what you’ve read or seen on the internet, DO NOT PEE ON THE VICTIM!.
This is an urban myth, it does NOT work, and it’s gross. The victim has enough problems right now. The ammonia and urea, in pee, can help some stings if they’re applied separately to the wounds. But our pee contains so much water that it would likely inflict more pain.
A 10-year-old Australian boy was stung by a box jellyfish, but under very fortunate circumstances. He was in the middle of a swimming lesson and surrounded by lifeguards. He was about 50 m (164 feet) offshore when he was stung.
Immediately, he was brought back to the beach and given oxygen as other lifeguards poured vinegar on his wounds. He was taken to a nearby hospital with an elevated heart rate but stabilized shortly after that. After an ECG and some ibuprofen, he had a hot shower and was released within a few hours.
Step 3: Avoid them in the first place
Knowing the dangers of these creatures, where they live, and how they behave will go a long way in preventing this from happening. Box jellyfish can be found a few hundred meters (or feet) offshore. They live in all oceans, some freshwater lakes, and ponds. The most lethal species are found in northern Australia. Scientists consider them to be the most venomous marine animal.
They have an incredible range in size, from the size of a thimble to a diameter of 2.4 m(8 ft). Their tentacles can stretch for more than 60 m (200 ft) in length.
Box jellyfish are known to kill, on average, one person each year in Australia, and up to six in the Philippines. But, if you stay away from warmer water, where these killers hang out, they’re not something you’d necessarily have to worry about.
So, do you still think that sharks are the deadliest predator? These jellyfish are nearly invisible in the water, don’t leave blood behind when they attack, and they can kill you much faster than Jaws ever could.
- “65 Interesting Facts About Jellyfish | Factretriever.Com”. Karin Lehnardt. 2021. factretriever.com.
- “No Brain? For Jellyfish, No Problem | Blog | Nature | PBS”. Gaskill, Melissa. 2018. Nature.
- “Box jellyfish sting treatment”. 2021. Healthline.
- “What is the most venomous marine animal?”. 2021. oceanservice.noaa.gov.
- “Jellyfish almost killed this scientist. Now, she wants to save others from their fatal venom”. 2018. Science | AAAS.
- “Australian schoolgirl survives deadly box jellyfish stings”. 2010. The Guardian.
- “Girl, 10, is ‘first person’ to survive sting from the world’s most venomous creature… the lethal box jellyfish”. Mail Online.