Why are there so many jellyfish in Virginia and North Carolina this year?

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — This past July was hot. Record-breaking hot.

Who really likes warm water? Jellyfish.

Temperatures in Norfolk, where records are kept, averaged 85 degrees Fahrenheit for July, shattering previous records. Normal July temperatures for our area average around 79 degrees. Warm air lead to warmer water and the jellyfish took note.

“Have jellyfish been worse than normal? Yes. Here at the Oceanfront, we had a real run of jellyfish stings,” said Tom Gill with the Virginia Beach Life Saving Service.

Lifeguards noticed the increase. Walk-in clinics did, too.

Medical professionals at urgent care centers in Virginia and the Outer Banks say they’ve treated more jellyfish stings this summer than in past years.

Jellyfish stings aren’t typically a serious medical issue, but the reaction varies greatly depending on the encounter and the person. The pain is much stronger for some than it is for others.

So, what should you do if you do get stung?

“The first thing you want to do is make sure your skin is clear of any of the remaining tentacles,” explained Gill. “They’re very small. Typically you can’t see them. So what you’ve got to do is get that area cleaned. Don’t use fresh water. Maybe stay out in the salt water if there’s not more jellyfish around and really try to get that area cleaned and clear of the tentacles. Because the tentacles could still be delivering the toxin and if you leave them on there for a longer period of time you could have more serious result, maybe some longer-lasting pain.”

To ensure all the tentacles are off your skin, you can scrub the area with salt water wet sand, nature’s exfoliator. You can also use a credit card to scrape the skin. 

Gill says if you experience shortness of breath and swelling after a jellyfish sting, seek out medical attention.

According to Gill, three to four weeks ago the numbers of jellyfish were high. Then Tropical Storm Isaias appeared and swept many of them out to sea, finally providing some relief for swimmers this August. There are a handful of jellyfish species, also known as sea nettles, native to Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay usually has more jellies hanging around because the water is warmer. NOAA tracks the probability of encounters with jellies in the bay.

Jellyfish are part of the ocean, and Gill says you shouldn’t let them get in the way of enjoying the water.

“I think what the key is for people to understand is that they’re there. They’re a nuisance. There’s too many positives about the beach and the ocean to stay away from it.”

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