Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Sometimes they are small and invisible to the eye. Sometimes they are massively large and too numerous to miss. Sometimes the smaller they are, the most powerful their venom.

Jellyfish can be the biggest obstacle to success for some swimmers on some open water swims.

But we learned more than a few things about jellyfish from the world-renowned jellyfish expert Dr. Angel Yanagihara of the University of Hawaii.

More people should listen to this extraordinarily passion and knowledgeable scientist who travels the world to research jellyfish of all types. The Navy SEALs listen to her and so do we.

Often, ocean swimmers get stung by jellyfish, and then they seek the advice of medical personnel who have very little practical experience in knowing what specific kind of jellyfish are responsible for the stings. On the other hand, Dr. Yanagihara can look at a jellyfish sting and tell the victim precisely what stung them, what the best treatment is, and the environment in which the jellyfish exists. As she tells us…

If you want to preserve a jellyfish and show it to a physician or marine biologist for their reference, put the jellyfish in some vodka to preserve it.

If you want to how best to treat a jellyfish sting but do not have vodka on the beach, place some of its tentacles on sticky tape and then airmail to an experienced marine biologist for analysis.

If you do not have vodka or sticky tape readily at hand, then scoop out the jellyfish into a shallow white or black pan and photograph it. Then email the photograph to an experienced marine biologist for analysis.

Armed with this knowledge, an experienced jellyfish expert and knowledgeable medical personnel can accurately understand what precise jellyfish stung you and then provide you with specific information and treatment to take care of the wound. There is often a misunderstanding that jellyfish stings are all the same and therefore treated the same which is an inaccurate assumption.

Also, it is often the case that men have thicker skin than women and children that partly enables them to withstand jellyfish stings relatively well. When skin is thicker, the venomous dose delivered by the tentacles to the layer of tissue below the dead surface skin is far less. Because women and children have thinner skin than men in general, the reactions from women and children is often greater than men.

Photo shows Aimeson King of Canada who has swum in areas that have been strewn with jellyfish.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association