Stings, marine creatures


Most stings from sea creatures in the UK are not serious and can be treated with first aid.  Sometimes you may need to go to hospital.

What to do if you've 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 mins - use hot flannels or towels if you can't 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 isn't going away
  • been stung on your face or genitals
  • been stung by a stingray

Find your nearest minor injuries unit here

Go to A & E or call 999 if you've 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 here

Symptoms of sea creature stings

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

Jellyfish and Portugese 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

  • Jellyfish
  • Portuguese man-of-war
  • Weever fish
  • Sea urchins
  • Stingrays

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 02/06/2023 11:31:17