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When Is Jellyfish Season In Miami?

There are evil gelatinous villains lurking at the beach. No, not those guys with binoculars. The villains I'm talking about are those blobs known as jellyfish. They don't look very aggressive, but they can pack a wallop. In truth, they're not out to get you. Their tentacles are used to capture the fish they feed on. However, some do come in contact with swimmers causing severe pain, blisters, rashes, or in rare cases even death.

If you're planning a trip to the beach, it is useful to know more about jellyfish and when they're typically found in Florida beaches. 

Jellyfish season in Miami / South Florida can arrive as early as May and can last until October. Usually, they peak in August or September. They are present all year long, but large blooms in warm waters combined with the right currents and wind conditions can bring them in the vicinity of beachgoers.  

So, how do you avoid running into jellyfish? Here's how to determine if they're present at the beach you're on and what to do if you get stung.

 

Jellyfish
Jellyfish
Portuguese Man-O-War
Portuguese Man-O-War (not actually a jellyfish - but close enough)

How You Can Tell If Jellyfish Are In The Water

To begin with, spotting jellyfish in the water is not always easy. Jellyfish range in size from under an inch to over 6 feet across. Don't be fooled by their size. The Irukandji Jellyfish, under an inch in diameter, is also one of the deadliest jellyfish in the world. They're transparent and difficult to see in the water. The Portuguese Man of War is much easier to spot (see the photo at the top of the post). They pose a threat even when seen at a distance as their tentacles can reach 50 feet in length. Luckily for Floridians, the Irukandji Jellyfish are mostly found in Australian waters. However, Man of War are common in Florida beaches.

Perhaps the simplest tip is to look along the shoreline and see if you spot any jellyfish that may have washed up. If you see them along the shoreline, you may want to stay out of the water. Be careful with any jellyfish that have washed up since their tentacles can still sting you up to two weeks after they have died.  

When jellyfish blooms occur, they usually remain out in the ocean away from beaches. Since jellyfish are weak swimmers, they rely on currents for movement through the oceans. Be aware of ocean winds blowing inland since they will often steer jellyfish towards the shores. 

Another good tip is to always look for purple flags on lifeguard stands. For your safety, learn what the different warning flag colors represent.

 

Florida Beach Warning Flags

 

All Florida public beaches use the following flag system:

  • The double red flag indicates the "beach is closed to swimmers".
  • A single red flag means "high hazard" due to high surf and/or strong currents.
  • A yellow flag means "medium hazard" with moderate surf and/or hazards.
  • A green flag means "low hazard" and calm conditions. 
  • The purple flag indicates the presence of dangerous marine life.

 

Miami Beach Lifeguard Stand
Miami Beach Lifeguard Stand Displaying Warning Flags

What To Do If Your Are Stung (And What Not To Do)

I am not an expert nor a medical professional. However, I wanted to know, as I am sure you do, what should be done if someone gets stung. I spent a good deal of time researching for recommended treatments for jellyfish stings. I found an enormous amount of contradictory information on what to do about jellyfish stings.

Many urban myths about treating jellyfish stings are out there including fresh water, ammonia, human urine, meat tenderizer, alcohol, or rubbing with a towel. These are widely discouraged and can make things worse.

Here are the most common recommendations that I found in my research.        

  • Before anything else observe for signs of anaphylactic shock. If any signs are present of anaphylaxis immediately contact 911.
  • Remain calm and exit the water. There could be other jellyfish around you.
  • Alert any lifeguard in the area if available.
  • Rinse the area with seawater. Do not use fresh water since it can activate any stingers that haven't yet fired.
  • Do not rub or scratch the area. 
  • Many sites suggest pouring vinegar onto the affected area for 30 seconds (see below). It should help to neutralize the venom. Many sites claim this works on most jellyfish stings. (However, the American Red Cross states that it does not recommend vinegar for most jellyfish stings in U.S. coastal waters.) 
  • Remove any remaining tentacles but don't use your hands. Avoid any contact with the removed tentacles. Use tweezers if you have them. Do not scrape them off.
  • Apply hot water to the area for 20 to 45 minutes. The water should be as hot as tolerated but not scalding.
  • Doctors will often prescribe one or more of the following: calamine lotion, hydrocortisone creams, pain relief medications, and to reduce the itching and rash - antihistamine. I would suggest getting instructions from a doctor.

There are also several sprays on the market that help reduce the pain. People often include them in their beach bags. Some stings can be delayed in the development of symptoms. Contact a doctor for medical advice.


For emergencies, contact 911 immediately if someone has been stung and:

  • is having trouble breathing or swallowing
  • has a swollen tongue or lips, or a change in voice
  • has bad pain or feels very ill
  • is nauseated or vomiting
  • is dizzy or has a headache
  • has muscle spasms
  • is wheezing or has trouble breathing
  • shows signs of hoarseness, cough, or tightness in the throat or chest
  • is having trouble swallowing
  • is acting or speaking in a confused manner or speech is slurred
  • if they have passed out (fainted) or is too weak to stand
  • has stings over a large part of the body
  • the sting is in the eye or mouth
  • may have been stung by a very dangerous jellyfish
  • or if you are seeing any signs of shock or anaphylaxis 


Here is a partial look at some of the key sites I looked at. Click on the links to see the full pages. Remember this is only a summary of what I found in my research and is provided for informational purposes. Always rely on professional medical attention if you are stung. 

 

The Cleveland Clinic (click for more):

You can treat mild jellyfish stings with the following steps:

  • If you are stung at the beach or in the ocean, pour seawater onto the part of your body that was stung. Do not use fresh water.
  • Use tweezers to remove any tentacles you see in your skin.
  • Next, apply vinegar or rubbing alcohol to the affected area to stop the burning feeling and the release of the toxin.
  • After you have poured vinegar on the site, apply shaving cream or a mixture of baking soda and seawater. When this is dry, scrape the mixture off with a credit card.
  • To help reduce the pain, apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. You can also use an ice pack or hot water to help with the pain and swelling.

Your doctor may treat more serious jellyfish stings with medications to relieve pain, neutralize the venom’s effects (antivenin) and reduce the itching and rash (antihistamine).

The Mayo Clinic (click for more):

Most jellyfish stings can be treated as follows:

  • Carefully pluck visible tentacles with fine tweezers.
  • Soak the skin in hot water. Use water that's 110° to 113° F (43° to 45° C). If a thermometer isn't available, test the water on an uninjured person's hand or elbow — it should feel hot, not scalding. Keep the affected skin immersed or in a hot shower for 20 to 45 minutes.

Popular Science (click for more):

  • First, douse your skin—and the tentacles on it—in vinegar.
  • Remove the stingers with tweezers.
  • Use Sting No More, a product designed to treat jellyfish stings. The spray contains vinegar to inhibit the nematocysts, plus urea to help dissolve the sticky substances that help tentacles adhere. It is the only treatment that allowed the tentacles to be washed away rather than plucked out.
  • Apply heat to the injury. It might seem like you want ice to cool off the burning wound, but heat actually reduces the venom's activity.

The American Red Cross (click for more):

Standards:

  • Assess for loss of responsiveness, signs of shock, or anaphylaxis, and call 9-1-1 if present. Begin CPR as indicated.
  • Following removal of remaining tentacles, use hot water immersion/irrigation or apply a hot pack to relieve pain. The temperature of the water or hot pack should be ~106°-113° F or as hot as tolerated (not scalding), for 20 minutes or until the pain is relieved.

Guidelines:

  • Gently lift or scrape off any remaining tentacles with a blunt object, such as a seashell, and/or rinsing the affected area with seawater.
  • Vinegar (acetic acid) is not recommended for most jellyfish stings in US coastal waters.

Options:

  • Topical lidocaine cream or gel may be of benefit for pain control.
  • If hot packs or hot water are not available, it is reasonable to apply a cold pack.

But Wait, What About Sea Lice?

Oh no, Sea lice? What in the world are those? Well, it turns out that they aren't actually lice. Sea lice is a common term for tiny thimble jellyfish larvae. They are very tiny and can get caught in the area covered by swimmer's swimsuits, t-shirts worn in the water, or even in hair.

Whenever the sea lice are compressed between the skin and clothing they can sting. Their sting can cause a nasty itchy rash. The rash won't usually show up until about 4 to 24 hours after you have been exposed. The rashes can last to around a few days (2-4) or in some people up to 2 weeks. Again, look out for the purple alert flags warning of dangerous sea life.

If, while at the beach, you hear about sea lice in the area be sure to change out of your bathing suit as soon as possible and shower. Make sure to machine wash your bathing suit with detergent and run it through the dryer. The heat will help kill any remaining larvae. Reusing your suit if you haven't washed it after you were exposed can cause you to break out again. Wash those suits people!

 

Jellyfish
Jellyfish

Tune In Next Week When We Dive Deeper Into These Burning Questions . . .

Is It True That Jellyfish Mostly Speak French?
Do Jellyfish Enjoy A Good Game Of Tug-of-War? (Hint: See Photo Above)
What Shade Of Lipstick Do Jellyfish Prefer?


Yes, these are ridiculous, but I just started this blog and no one is actually reading these posts yet. So, if you're actually reading this, feel free to comment below. Let me know what other "totally legit" questions you can think of that I won't ever actually answer. I could use a good laugh! 

2 Comments

  1. I heard jellyfish like Grandma’s the most. Please be careful and watch your Grandmas, I don’t think they are ready for these jellies! Also, thank you for all of your jelly fish knowledge within this site

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