Jellyfish sting kits in high demand at Cape Cod beach community

MASHPEE, Mass. — A Cape Cod beach community that is averaging daily jellyfish stings this summer is offering a remedy – or at least a way to numb the pain.

Nicole Corbett, who runs the Popponesset Water Stewardship Alliance in Mashpee, set up a jellyfish sting kit program two years ago. Fourteen black cases with brightly colored jellyfish on them are equipped with supplies to treat stings, along a mile-and-a-half stretch of Popponesset Beach.

Inside each kit are a vinegar/urea spray, an anti-inflammatory cream and a heat pack. A QR code allows volunteers to know when they need to restock supplies.

Last week, Corbett said, the kits were used 25 times, with more unreported stings likely. Corbett herself has used the supplies to minimize her pain.

“We have had a very high demand for these kits this summer,” said Corbett, who is the science department head at Abington Middle and High School. “We’ve had a variety of stings. Some people just brush against jellyfish and have a mild reaction to it, some people have bad stings and one to two days of effect and rashes lasting longer.”

Leo Romanski, a 15-year-old resident of the Popponesset Beach Association and a volunteer for the program, helps restock the kits and has needed to use them himself.

“It really does feel initially like an electric shock, and after that it does have a long stinging sensation for a few hours after and leaves a rash for a couple days,” Leo said of experiencing a sting. “I followed the instructions in the kit… and it was a lot more bearable for me.”

Corbett has noticed increasing numbers of jellyfish at area beaches in recent years and believes warming waters and heavy rainfall and run-off this summer have created a nutrient-rich environment jellyfish are thriving off locally. She said she has been seeing and photographing many more jellyfish lately, especially the Atlantic Bay Nettle, a species more commonly found further south.

Asked about warming waters potentially contributing to a larger population of jellyfish, Chris Doller, Manager of Changing Exhibits at the New England Aquarium, told Boston 25 News there is a theory that climate change is leading to higher jellyfish numbers, but that is hard to quantify – it’s simply too difficult to count the creatures.

Also, Doller said, fewer – not more – jellyfish than usual have been seen in Boston this summer.

Corbett, whose organization seeks to address environment issues affecting the coastal Nantucket Sound area, engages in various citizen science projects to learn about jellyfish. She wants to encourage other scientists to do more research on jellies on the Cape.

Until then, she urges swimmers to be aware and be vigilant.

“There was a child who ended up having a wave come – the jellyfish was in the wave. The child was probably no more than three feet tall, and the jellyfish kind of came on top. And stung her. On the head,” Corbett said. “That’s scares me personally.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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