June 1, 2011 -- Depending on which beach you're visiting, you might want to carry some vinegar or meat tenderizer, just in case you get into a tete-a-tentacles with jellyfish.
Vinegar was the solution of choice this Memorial Day weekend when about 800 stings were reported at Florida beaches, primarily Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.
Eisen Witcher, Brevard County's assistant ocean lifeguard chief, said that strong, east onshore winds had pushed the jellyfish toward the beaches.
"It happens periodically," Witcher said. "Over the weekend, there were the perfect conditions for this to happen. It is the season for this type of winds and swells to come in."
Witcher said that although Brevard County was used to seeing Portuguese man o' war and cannonball jellyfish, the culprit of the weekend's stings seemed to be mauve stingers. They have purple-reddish spots and striped tentacles. He did not know why this particular species had been drawn to the area.
Jellyfish Stings: Two Transported to Hospital
Most people were stung on their ankles, arms and torsos, Witcher said, with reactions ranged from itching to rash to a welp. He said there were two cases of allergic reaction in which people had to be transported to a hospital for respiratory issues.
Witcher said that the county had placed flags -- yellow for caution and purple for marine life -- on the beaches during the weekend but that people had still gotten in the water with the jellyfish.
"You can do it," he said of swimming around jellyfish. "I don't recommend it. It's not like they can turn off and on their stingers."
In Brevard County, the warning flags are still out so if you opt to take the chance around jellyfish -- or give into a dare -- Witcher offered these tips for treating stings:
Get out of the water and check respirations. People react to stings differently.
Watch for swelling.
Rinse area with vinegar solution or a meat tenderizer.
Scrape away tentacle or residual stingers.
And about that whole urine myth: Witcher advised against it because it carries a low ammonia content.