Malta is an island renowned for its crystalline oceans, stunning expanse of sandy beaches, and a plethora of exciting water sports and activities to enjoy.
Something you may not have been aware of, however, is the range of visitors whom can occasionally be found roaming the Malta beaches from their home in the Mediterranean Sea.
Jellyfish are frequent guests in Malta, with a huge range of types, some more dangerous than others.
Here are some fascinating facts on the many varieties found on the Malta coastline, as well as advice and tips on the potential dangers anyhow to avoid them.
What are jellyfish?
On a basic level, jellyfish are free swimming, non-aggressive gelatinous marine animals, who are surrounded by tentacles.
These surrounding tentacles are covered in small sacs (or nematocysts) which are filled with poison (or venom) which cause a sting that can, on occasion, be life-threatening.
There are over 200 types of known and documented jellyfish, and they seem particularly attracted to Malta during the long, hot summers: unfortunately, at exactly the same time that most of us would like to enjoy the beach!
They are usually found when the light is dimmer – making them harder to locate and identify, and tend to be found washed up on the beach, where they may be mistaken for plastic bags or other rubbish, or floating close to the surface of the water.
Do all jellyfish sting?
The good news is that most jellyfish stings are accidental and occur from the animal being carelessly handled, or from someone swimming or wading directly into one.
The sting comes from the tentacles, which often trail behind the body and float about in the water, making it easier to anciently brush against them.
All jellyfish sting, but most are not strong enough to do any serious harm to humans; you may feel a slight shock, which will prevent you from touching them again (the jellyfishes aim!) but it should not do any severe damage or long-term harm.
The best way to avoid being stung – apart from constant vigilance – is to check the wind patterns.
Jellyfish cannot swim; they simply float on the current, and so are pushed towards the shore when the wind is blowing inward.
This means that you are more likely to encounter and make contact with them.
What if I am stung?
If you are stung by a jellyfish, medical advice is to rinse the area with salt water for five to ten minutes.
Do not use fresh water, hot water, or ice packs, and avoid rubbing the area, as this may set off any unexploded sting cells and do further damage.
You can, however, scrape the edge of the skin with a hard, linear edged object, such as the edge of a credit card, as this can help to disperse any unexploded sting cells.
This should be followed with the application of vinegar or alcohol, to prevent the sting cells from releasing their toxin, and then further treatment if required, such as antibiotics or steroid creams.
If you, or someone in your party, is stung who is hypersensitive, very young or very old, been stung in the face or mouth, or seems to have difficulty breathing or swallowing, or is experiencing any chest pains, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately.
Image Source: halongbay.biz
Types of jellyfish
There is a range of different types of jellyfish, some more potent than others:
1. Mauve stinger
One of the most commonly found jellyfish in Malta, the mauve stinger has a nasty sting which can be extremely painful.
It favours the warm waters of the Mediterranean, and so can be a constant annoyance to the tourists of Malta.
It won’t have the power to kill you, but could create a very uncomfortable experience!
2. Portuguese man o’ war
Perhaps one of the most well-known types of jellyfish, the Portuguese man o’ war is known as one of the big stingers.
Interestingly, it is also not technically a jellyfish, but a siphonophore; an animal which is made up of a colony of organisms, known as polyps, all working together.
A sting from this creature may not be fatal, but it is excruciatingly painful and definitely best avoided!
As a warning, a man o’ war also has the power to do damage after death; the venom in the nematocysts which cover its tentacles remain active, meaning you can still get a nasty sting if one if washed up on the beach.
3. Moon jellyfish
This type of jellyfish is easily recognised by its distinctive blue colour and the pattern which it contains within it.
There is also good news: moon jellyfish are what is known as ‘slightly venomous’, meaning that a sting will cause a prickling or burning sensation, but no long-term damage or serious pain.
They are still best avoided where possible, however!
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