New topical treatment for jellyfish stings

Published On: Dec 12 2012 07:31:07 PM HST   Updated On: Dec 13 2012 09:33:55 AM HST

Islanders know you are taking your chances if you swim eight to twelve days after a full moon. That is when the jellyfish are swarming. Now a University of Hawaii researcher said she can ease the pain of a sting.

Biochemist Angel Yanagihara said she's never felt pain on her skin like the day she was stung by a box jellyfish in Hawaii.

"I had these things wrapped around my neck, and my arms, and my ankles, anywhere I wasn't covered with my Lycra swimsuit. But it was intensely painful and I started gasping right away," said Yanagihara.

That was 14 years ago, and ever since then she's been hard at work in her lab.

"At that time usually the approach was vinegar and meat tenderizer. ... I think the ambulance workers also put Saran Wrap around my arm," said Yanagihara.

Those solutions relieve pain only for a moment, so she made a topical treatment for jellyfish stings. The ointment goes on where you've been stung, and it stops the venom in its tracks.

The toxins from the venom cannot only be debilitating, they can be deadly. She said she figured out the treatment just in time.

"Jelly populations globally have been seemed to be rising whether this has to do with climate change, or poor ocean management, or a combination of those things," said Yanagihara.

Local beach goers who dive into the ocean even when it's jellyfish warning time said they've been waiting for something like this.

"We do go in the water on occasion, and wouldn't be a bad idea to have that in your shorts somewhere," said beachgoer Bill Monsen.

You can't find the gel in stores yet, but the patents have been submitted. Yanagihara said next on tap, an ointment to prevent stings.

The research has been funded by the Hawaii Community Foundation.


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