What to do if you have been stung


Get help if possible

Ask a lifeguard or someone with first aid training for help.

If help is not available:


  • rinse the affected area with seawater (not fresh water)
  • remove any spines from the skin using tweezers or the edge of a bank card
  • soak the area in very warm water (as hot as can be tolerated) for at least 30 minutes – use hot flannels or towels if you cannot soak it
  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen


  • do not use vinegar
  • do not pee on the sting
  • do not apply ice or a cold pack
  • do not touch any spines with your bare hands
  • do not cover or close the wound

Go to a minor injuries unit if you have:

  • severe pain that is not going away
  • been stung on your face or genitals
  • been stung by a stingray

Find your nearest minor injuries unit

Go to A&E or call 999 if you have been stung and have:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • fits or seizures
  • severe swelling around the affected area
  • severe bleeding
  • vomiting
  • lightheadedness or loss of consciousness

Find your nearest A&E department

Symptoms of sea creature stings

The main symptoms of sea creature stings are intense pain where you're stung and an itchy rash.

Jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war stings can also cause raised circular areas on the skin (welts).

How to avoid being stung


  • look out for beach warning signs
  • consider wearing a wetsuit when swimming in the sea, particularly during the spring and summer
  • wear waterproof shoes or sandals when walking in shallow water or rocky areas
  • scuff or stamp your feet when walking in shallow water to make sea creatures aware you're approaching


  • do not touch or handle sea creatures that sting

UK sea creatures that sting