The objective of the study was to compare cutaneous treatments (heat, papain and vinegar) for acute jellyfish (Carybdea alata) stings. Healthy adult volunteer subjects received a single-tentacle jellyfish sting on each forearm. One forearm was treated with hot-water immersion (40-41 degrees C). This was compared with the other forearm, which was randomized to a comparison treatment of papain meat tenderizer or vinegar. Pain was measured at 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 15, and 20 minutes using a 10-cm visual analog scale (VAS). For 25 subject runs, the average VAS scores at t = 0 were 3.6 cm (hot water) and 3.7 cm (comparison treatment). At t = 4 minutes (2 minutes after treatment had started), the differences between hot-water and comparison group VAS scores were 2.1 cm versus 3.2 cm, respectively. The mean difference between hot-water and comparison treatments was 1.1 cm (95% confidence interval, 0.6 to 1.6). At t = 20 minutes (the end of the study period), the differences between hot-water and comparison group VAS scores were 0.2 cm versus 1.8 cm, respectively. The mean difference between hot-water and comparison treatments was 1.6 cm (95% confidence interval, 0.9 to 2.3). This study suggests that the most efficacious initial treatment for C alata jellyfish envenomation is hot-water immersion to the afflicted site.
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