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Bathing water quality
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Water and health

What are the dangers of bathing and related activities?


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Envenomation through touch

published on 04/16/2008

Envenomation through touch occurs most often through jellyfish and man o’ wars. Envenomation due to sea anemones generally has only mild consequences.

Jellyfish and Man O’ Wars

Jellyfish are carried through the water by the wind, currents or tides. They can sometimes be seen at the surface, but can also swim farther below the surface, making them far more difficult to identify for bathers. Man O’ Wars are large jellyfish that live in warm waters, in particular the semi-tropical Atlantic, always floating at the water’s surface and releasing its venomous filaments underwater.

Signs of envenomation and recommended action:

European species are not highly venomous but can still cause rashes, redness, itching and burning. The appropriate response is to thoroughly and immediately rinse all affected areas with sea water or gently rub them with sand or shaving cream, for instance, to remove the rash-causing cells. You can proceed to a vinegar rinse, then apply a soothing or anti-histamine cream. Important note: rinsing with freshwater or rubbing the wound are strongly discouraged, as they spread or increase the amount of venom released as the rash-causing cells remain stuck to the skin! Do not hesitate to contact a doctor if necessary.
Man O’ War attacks cause very sharp pain and lead to a variety of symptoms, reflecting how severe the attack is: fainting, sweating, dizziness, convulsions, vomiting and muscular pain. Death may also ensue. The appropriate response is to have the victim taken to the hospital for emergency care.
Once a jellyfish wound has healed, the skin colour may remain slightly distorted. It is also important to realise that a skin lesion can be reactivated by subsequent ingestion of seafood.

Sea Anemones

Contact with sea anemones (or sea nettles), which bind to coastal rock, generally cause nothing more than a fleeting burning sensation. Rinse the affected area with seawater. If the burning persists, apply a soothing lotion or anti-inflammatory cream and, if necessary, contact a doctor.
Sensitization can occur quickly in subjects who have already been exposed to venom. In such cases, anaphylactic shock (a severe allergic reaction) may occur, as unexpected as it is serious. Emergency care should be sought as quickly as possible.
sea anemone