Jellyfish in Ireland - when to look out for them, how to treat stings and more

By Fiona Frawley

July 28, 2022 at 9:01am

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We all hopped on the sea swim bandwagon with gusto over the past couple of years, but our dry robes won't protect us from the dreaded sting of a jelly.

And neither will peeing on yourself, despite what Friends told us.

With the warmer weather, we've seen an influx of jellyfish in Irish waters. And with more of us being partial to an aul dip in the sea than ever, we thought it could be a good time to have a look at the most common species found in Ireland, and what to do if you get stung.

The most common types of jellyfish found in Ireland are the following:

1. Common (moon)

Moon jellyfish, or 'bluetooth speaker jellyfish' as one of my friends called them over the weekend (it's an accurate description imo) can be identified by their four purplish-pink gonad rings and transparent body or 'bell'. According to watersafety.ie they can be found in Irish waters from April - September but don't worry - they don't sting humans.

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2. Compass

These are the ones I remember seeing most on summer holidays in West Cork as a young'un, attempting to pick them up in my little plastic bucket without a care in the world. They're mostly found off the south and west coasts from July to September, and have a slightly worse but still mild sting - a bit like that of a nettle.

3. Barrel

These jellyfish are identifiable by their large dome and white colour with purple lobe, and can be up to 1 metre in diameter. According to watersafety.ie they have no tentacles to sting with, but prolonged exposure can cause an allergic reaction. They can be found in Irish waters all year round, but especially from July to September.

4. Blue

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Blue jellyfish have a translucent body with a purple ring inside, and masses of tentacles on the margin. They aren't too common but can be found in Irish waters from April to July, and can give you a painful sting.

5. Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane have the potential to cause a bad sting - Dr Tom Doyle of UCC advises using hot water and vinegar as a remedy. Their colour varies from deep red to yellow, and they have up to 150 tentacles.

According to the hse you're at risk of getting stung if you touch jellyfish (even after they're dead), swim at times where they have appeared in large numbers, swim or dive in jellyfish areas without protective clothing or sunbathe/play where jellyfish have been washed up on the beach. Jellyfish can also sting dogs, so keep an eye on your furry friends while at the beach.

If you end up being stung, the hse advise taking the following steps:

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  • Remove yourself from the water
  • If you're helping someone else, make sure you don't get stung yourself
  • Seek assistance from a lifeguard if there is one on the beach
  • Try to carefully remove any attached tentacles by flushing the area with water, or with gloved hands, a tweezers or the edge of a credit card. Do not attempt to rub them off
  • Treat mild symptoms of pain or swelling with paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • Use anti-histamine creams for itching at the sting site
  • Apply a 'dry cold pack' (a cold pack or bag of ice wrapped inside a t-shirt or cloth) to the area
  • Keep puncture wounds clean and dry to prevent them from getting infected - but don't use a tight bandage
  • Use sea water, not fresh water (or pee) to clean the stung area

It's also worth checking out this video interview with Dr Tom Doyle about the jellyfish in Irish waters.

So there you go kids. Stay safe, sting-free and whatever you do, don't watch Friends for advice on this one.

Header image via Shutterstock 

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