I love to go snorkeling. Sure, I swallow a bit of saltwater now and then. And the tossing sea sometimes make me feel like I’m gonna toss my breakfast. But it’s worth it. When I strap on my mask and dip my head underwater, I feel like I’m entering a new world. A peaceful silence drifts over me. Purple sea fans sway beneath my body. I watch blue and gold butterfly fish school by in swirling clouds.
But among the splendor, danger also lurks, sometimes within the most lovely of creatures. Sea urchins, with their spectacular spines, are an obvious risk. One touch, and you’ll feel like you’ve tangled with a wasp. Sea anemones inject passing fish with a paralyzing neurotoxin—then eat them. Jellyfish deliver poison-filled darts with venom ranging from irritating to deadly.
My son (who refuses to be named due to extenuating—and disgusting—circumstances) suffered a man-o-war sting this week while we vacationed in Mexico. The ethereal deep blue creature stung his hand while he swam. Not exactly the highlight of his trip.
Coincidentally, I’d read up on jellyfish stings last week. Vinegar or meat tenderizer breaks down the protein-based venom. But all we had at the beach were more, ah, naturalremedies. You know, the kind you usually find near a urinal. My son was in enough pain that he finally accepted his uncle’s generous offering, knowing full well that he’d be teased for the rest of his life. His pain disappeared almost immediately.
Back at the hotel, I researched man-o-war venom. Turns out the pain fades after about an hour. So my son’s brush with poor hygiene might not have been exactly necessary. I also learned that man-o-wars are not jellyfish. They’re siphonophores, a whole colony of specialized individuals. In contrast to jellyfish, their venom actually intensifies with vinegar use. So, really, my son should be grateful we didn’t have any.
What situations have you experienced that seemed safe or beautiful, but ended up otherwise? What home remedies work for you? What have yielded strange or unexpected results?