Jellyfish What They Are and Why They Form Pests

They can be fascinating beings but also terrifying. There is no doubt that jellyfish leave no one indifferent. Despite being a marine animal widely studied by numerous scientific fields, the jellyfish sting can become very poisonous to humans, so in many cases facing a jellyfish plague in a bathing area can be dangerous.

That is why its control on beaches is very important to obtain the blue flag. We will know a little information about jellyfish.

What are they?

Its scientific name is Cnidaria Medusozoa, and throughout history, it has received numerous names. Formerly some civilizations considered them tears of the sea, although today they are known in many countries as agua mala or malangas.

They belong to the branch of the celentéreos and can be described as bag-shaped gelatinous body animals that long light tentacles full of stinging cells called cnidocytes that they use to hunt as a net. They are carnivorous animals that feed primarily on plankton, crustaceans, small fish, or fish eggs.

Jellyfish communities

Apparently, the theory most studied by the scientific community is that jellyfish use ocean currents to swim against them, and this is how they manage to group themselves into small communities called colonies.

They usually appear in waters with a high content of iodine, that is, the saltiest ones, and usually approach the shores of the beaches when the water temperature rises.

The increase in their populations is due to the fact that their main predators (fish such as tunas or salmon) are suffering from uncontrolled fishing, which causes jellyfish to roam freely through the water without fear of being eaten. Moreover, if they settle in a specific area of ​​the sea, their predators will not approach so as not to expose their eggs and larvae to become their food.

The pests

In recent years, a huge proliferation of jellyfish colonies has been noted, for example, in the Mediterranean Sea. This happens especially in the summer when temperatures in this area of ​​the planet skyrocket and even exceed 40 degrees.

A plague can group from a few jellyfish to hundreds or even thousands of them, as has happened in areas of the Andalusian coasts, where a jellyfish plague was detected in Malaga, specifically in La Axarquía, where more than 8 tons were removed.

But it is not the only area since some summers have come to suffer real jellyfish pests in the Mediterranean.  Even in the Spanish Levante, specimens of the poisonous Portuguese caravel were detected.

The causes of the appearance of these pests are, among others, the global warming of the seas, the decrease in winter rains, oil spills into the seas, or overfishing. All these situations coincide with the appearance of large jellyfish banks on our beaches, as they provide a perfect habitat for reproduction and survival.

The presence of these pests causes significant damage to the ecosystem, and above all, it also harms the tourism sector.

The jellyfish sting

The rubbing of its tentacles is harmful to our skin, and in some species, it can even cause death to humans.

However, among the different species, only a few pose a real danger to people.

Sea nettles, sea wasps, the well-known Portuguese caravels, or lion’s mane jellyfish can be really deadly. However, the usual sting or rubbing of a tentacle of poisonous jellyfish in humans is usually noted by the pain, itching, and rash that occurs for a few hours.

In any case, the sensitivity to the bite depends on each person, so it must be taken into account that many human beings can have severe allergic reactions. That is why they also have a strong impact on tourism activity, and in many cases, the beaches are forced to close to prevent possible bites or damage to tourists or visitors.

What to do about a jellyfish sting?

It is necessary to know well the state of the beaches we visit, especially in summer, and above all, to know what to do in case of having suffered jellyfish stings.

  • First, if you have access to any type of medical assistance, do not hesitate. There are usually lifeguards in the beach areas, and if there are none, you can call the Single Emergency Telephone (112) or ask someone to do it for you. Health professionals are the most qualified to help you with the problem.
  • To neutralize the poison, alcohol can be applied for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Now, it is important to clean the area, but to do so, you should not use freshwater since in that case, you can break the stinging cells. Ideally, use physiological serum, but if you do not have it, saltwater is also an option.
  • In case there is some jellyfish tentacle on the skin, it is important to remove it but never with your hands, but with tweezers.
  • We must apply cold for at least 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Never scrub the wound with towels or clothing; this will only cause the irritation to be greater.

The most common jellyfish sting treatment, in addition to these steps, is to administer an antihistamine for the reaction and an analgesic for pain, but this should be something that a healthcare provider directly prescribes since each person has different needs.

For example, pregnant women should be careful with the number of antihistamines they ingest. Sometimes, hydrocortisone creams are also applied for the next 5-7 days, but remember that they are medications and, therefore, should be recommended by a healthcare professional. In case the bite does not improve or get worse, it is best to go to a medical center.

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