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Hawaii Med J. 2011 Oct;70(10):217-9.

Epidemiology of jellyfish stings presented to an American urban emergency department.

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  • 1Straub Clinic and Hospital, Emergency Room, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA. Jennifer.Ping@straub.net



Cnidarian, or jellyfish, stings are a common malady in tropical Emergency Departments. There are limited studies examining cnidarian stings in the United States. The team investigated the epidemiology and treatments for jellyfish stings presenting to an urban emergency department (ED) in Honolulu, Hawai'i.


The team performed a retrospective chart analysis of stings presented between 2000 and 2008. A total of 116 patients were identified. Charts were reviewed for patient demographics, incident characteristics, patient arrival condition, and treatments given in the emergency department.


The median age was 24 years (range 9-85). Of patients 58% were men, 64% were Hawai'i non-residents, and 23 % arrived between the hours of 10pm and 2 am. Emergency Medical System transported 64%, and 65% arrived with normal vital signs. Twenty-four different types of IV/PO medications were administered and patients received up to 5 different medications per visit. Intravenous medications were given to 64%. All patients were eventually discharged home from the ED.


Risk factors for cnidarian stings include being men, being a Hawai'i non-resident, and nighttime ocean activities. Stings were treated with various medications and routes suggesting that there is no current standard of care for stings. This study suggests that there is a need for public health interventions tailored to tourists. Prevention and education of home treatment could decrease the cost of health care by decreasing ambulance transports and total number of ED visits for a non-urgent disease.

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