An 8-year-old girl is among several people nursing injuries after encountering jellyfish along Seven Mile Beach this week.
The Department of Environment has said it is unsure what type of jellyfish is causing the current report of stings as “it is not generally possible to tell what stung a person from the resulting sting marks”.
“This is not atypical for this time of year as we have jellyfish in our waters year round. Thankfully, they are not particularly common; however, anecdotally, after or during a southerly wind in the summer, you are more likely to encounter stinging zooplankton, e.g., jellyfish and ‘sea itch’ along Seven Mile Beach. This year, the culprit appears to be adult jellyfish and not sea itch,” the DoE said in a Facebook post following queries from the Cayman Compass about the incident.
Lana Hargrave said she and her family were vacationing at Coral Stone, near The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman when her daughter Kinsley went into the water around 8.30am Tuesday.
“We had our jet ski parked in the water. She went into the water, it was about four feet of water. She was in the water for 5 to 10 minutes. She came in running and said her leg was hurting and itching,” she said.
Hargrave said she could see the red welts on the child’s legs and thighs and immediately knew she had been stung. Hargrave said the water was murky so it was hard to see what her daughter had encountered while swimming.
“Someone here was telling me it could be [also] sea wasps, because there are plumes of seas wasps that wash in with the southern winds,” she said.
After the incident, she said she and her husband Ron, sprang into action and grabbed their other children who were already seated on the jet ski, waiting to go out.
“We had to go in and get them without them touching the water. It was scary,” she said
More than a day later, Kinsley was still feeling the effects of the stings.
It’s still is pretty bad this morning,” she said on Wednesday. “I have to go get more antihistamine.”
Tracy Ross and a number of her friends were also stung by jellyfish along on Seven Mile Beach Tuesday evening.
“It was scary, because my 8-year-old was with us and I was concerned for her to get stung, but I have never had the issue on Seven Mile Beach area in my life and I go to the beach four times a week,” she said.
Ross said she and her friends arrived at the beach by Coral Beach around 4pm.
She said they had planned to swim and relax until the sunset, which they normally did at that location.
“At 5:15pm, my friend said something stung him by his upper leg area. At that point, we all started looking around to see what we could see. My other friend, about 30 seconds later then felt stinging on her buttocks area. It was when she start running out the water I realised it was jelly fish going along the waves.
“As soon as I was about to jump out, I felt a sting on my lower back but I was already moving fast enough that it did not catch me good enough and I got minimal stings,” she said.
They immediately put vinegar on the swollen area and took some ibuprofen, she said.
“They are doing fine,” she said of her friends, adding that she seemed to received the worse stings.
“It’s a very simple, sharp tingling feeling and it keeps getting more and more intense as time goes by. It so quick, you don’t even realise until a good 30 seconds how much or where you got stung,” she said.
Her advice for beachgoers is “Never think that any part of the island’s water is safer than another part and to carry beach safety items to help in the event of stings or cuts or fire coral, etc.”
“Always be prepared and don’t underestimate the water or its environment,” she added.
The DoE, in its post said, jellyfish and sea itch are just too unpredictable to enable the department to give guidance on locations or timing.
“Combining this with different levels of personal tolerance for stings, as well as balancing the risk of being stung, as opposed to the enjoyment of being in the water, the DoE can’t say when and where members of the public should be in or out of the water,” it added.
What to do if you encounter jellyfish
The DoE has said anyone who comes into contact with jellyfish should speak with a doctor or a medical professional.
“Avoid using fresh water as the difference in salinity may trigger the stinging cells on your skin to sting again. Avoid vigorous washing as that may be a physical trigger to sting again,” it said.
If someone is stung, the victim should remove any clothing that has the stinging cells in it as a precaution and avoid scratching the site to further irritate the sting.
“Other common responses can also include applying vinegar to break down the proteins which are the stinging chemicals the jellyfish have injected into the top layer of the person’s skin; antihistamine cream to reduce the body’s allergic reaction to the stings; and/or topical after-sting ointments for treating the sting and soothing the injury,” it said.