Jellyfish are found all over the tropical world, the most venomous jellyfish is the box jellyfish (technically not a jellyfish, actually, since it has a basic brain and eyes that can navigate to its prey or swim away from danger like humans). It can actually swim faster than humans and prefers to avoid obstacles. The vast majority of jellyfish stings come from one of the other 2000 species of jellyfish and are painful but not life threatening. Only 100 species of the recorded 2000 speciees of Jellyfish have any effect on human beings.
Being stung by a jellyfish is considered a low risk compared to many other activities. High risk activities would be driving a car, eating local food, drinking local water, taking part in local activity, being stung by a mosquito and a number of other risks. These previously mentioned risks are more likely than a jellyfish sting. As many people say, it is more likley to be hurt whilst sitting under a coconut tree than swimming. However this information may reduce your risk.
If stung apply vinegar immediately after the sting for 30 seconds can neutralize a lot of venom. It is recommended you take a couple of large water bottles of vinegar with you if you want to prepare for possible treatment of jellyfish stings, as vinegar is the best remedy. Do not add pressure or try and remove the stingers as this may increase the venom. Please refer to the First Aid Section below.
There is a very low risk associated with participation in watersports activities that involve any type of water craft (e.g. paddle skis, catamarans etc.). There is a higher risk when swimming, snorkelling or diving as you spend considerable time in the water. At any time you wish to enjoy water activities, you may choose to wear lycra ‘protective clothing’ (or wet suits when diving).
Chironex Box Jellyfish
Chirodropid, Alata, Fleckeri
The Chironex Box Jellyfish is the well-known, larger and potentially fatal Box Jellyfish, common at beaches along the mainland in Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, Philippines and a number of other warm water areas in the world. There have been numerous confirmed stings in all of these countries and there have been three confirmed stings in Langkawi in May 1996 and January 2010 (the most recent was confirmed by the victim's husband and ambulance officers - anecdotal evidence on events and symptoms clearly indicates chirodropid - while Malaysian authorities attributed cause of death to drowning) while several fatalities have been recorded in Sabah. There have been a large number of near-fatal stings throughout the region. The likelihood of being stung by this type of Jellyfish is rare though possible and does occur throughout the Indo-Pacific every year. There are several species of this jellyfish with some being more dangerous than others. If you are stung by a Chironex Box Jellyfish, you will feel immediate and severe pain. Refer to First Aid Treatment points below and gain medical assistance immediately.
Portuguese Man of War
Marine stingers known as Bluebottles are wide-spread throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans and can sometimes be seen washed up on beaches in Malaysia. They are usually found further South, but on the odd occasion are found locally. They are visible, blue, jelly-like creatures that give an immediate, painful sting (burning skin, gland pain, nausea, anxiety and sweating). Treatment is to flush profusely with vinegar and remove the stings with stick or by wearing gloves. Refer to the First Aid Treatment Points below and gain medical assistance immediately.
Phyllorhiza, Chrysoara sp1, sp2, sp3, Nemopilema sp1, sp2
One of the more common stinging jellyfish throughout the world and Malaysia and is a bell-shaped invertebrate, usually semi-transparent and with small, white dots and reddish-brown stripes. This can create a quite painful sting with some welting and marks. Pain normally resides after about 1 hour though marks can remain for up to 3 days. Treat immediately with vinegar and if the pain continues, seek medical treatment. Refer to the First Aid Treatment points below.
Protective lycra clothing called stinger suits greatly reduces the risk of exposure (though any areas of the body not covered are susceptible). They also have the added benefit of protecting you from the sun. It is recommended that you refrain from swimming in the ocean during the 48 hour period after a confirmed sting. We will warn you of any recent box jellyfish stings.
Please note that limited research has been completed to the species, types, life cycles, behavioral and movement patterns and seasons of Jellyfish in Malaysia. Due to this lack of knowledge, most people in langkawi will not to provide information on Jellyfish, or their personal opinions about swimming in the ocean, as the information provided can vary dramatically. The Box Jellyfish is thought to be found in the warmer months of January to May though there has been limited research in their habits or if in fact they are confirmed to live within the waters of Langkawi.
Symptoms of the box jellyfish include screams of agony upon contact and cardiac and respiratory arrest can occur within minutes. There will be many large red welts marks on the body where there has been contact. It is believed the risk is greater for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
In the event that you come into contact with a Box Jelly, please instigate the following first aid treatment.
Douse the area profusely with vinegar for at least 30 seconds as this stops any un-discharged stinging cells.
Do not try to scrape the tentacles off (with hands, wet sand or any item, or apply pressure), as this will trigger more stinging cells to fire venom into the body.
Contact medical staff as soon as possible, urgent medical assistance will be required.
Portuguese Man of War
If you have been stung by a Portuguese Man of War. Treatment is to flush profusely with vinegar to remove the tentacles. If required, remove the PMAO off with sticks or by using gloves.
The same 1st aid as a box jellyfish should be applied which is 30 seconds on vinegar to douse the sting.
If symptoms proceed, seek medical attention.
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