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800 jellyfish stings this summer at Charleston-area beaches still doesn't touch 2018 record

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Close to 800 people have been stung so far this summer by jellyfish at Charleston County's beach parks.

The Isle of Palms site leads the pack with at least 479 reported stings.

A Charleston County spokeswoman said the total number of stings reported in the area is typical for this time of the year.

And current numbers aren’t close to a record amount of people stung in 2018.

So far this year, 190 stings have been reported for the Folly Beach County Park and pier area, and 120 at Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, county data shows.

“Based on our tracking, jellyfish stings usually pick up at the beaches each summer in July and August,” said Sarah Reynolds, spokeswoman for the county’s park and recreation commission.

Sullivan’s Island Administrator Andy Benke said he believes the amount of jellyfish seen on the beach during the summer months are typically driven by the wind and currents that push them closer to the swimming area.

“They can’t really swim, so they’re propelled by the wind motion,” Benke said. “The wind will blow them in close to the shore, and that’s when they tend to come in contact with swimmers, and then they’ll get the bite or the sting from the tentacles.”

Reynolds said in an email that 2018 was a high season for jellyfish stings in the county. The total stings so far this summer on the Isle of Palms equals what was was seen in a week in 2018 — more than 500 stings were reported on the beach in a week that year.

Lifeguards track jellyfish stings at county beach parks on the weekends. From their observations, stings did pick up at the Isle of Palms and Folly Beach county parks in recent weeks, Reynolds said.

The fire department responds to jellyfish stings on Sullivan’s Island. The department reported 34 stings in August and two in both July and June.

Benke said there are so many new people in the area who seem to not know about jellyfish. 

First responders use a paste made from baking soda and alcohol or vinegar to treat people who have been stung, he said.

“And that pretty much relieves the discomfort, but again, if somebody does feel bad, we always encourage them to go see their physician,” Benke said.

The stings can occasionally be life-threatening, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The severity of a sting depends on the species of jellyfish, the penetrating power of the stinging cells and the victim’s skin and sensitivity.

The sea nettle and jellyball species have been reported most often this summer on Sullivan’s Island.

Numbers could also be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has regulated beach visitation this year along the coast.

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