portueguese man o' war jellyfish washed up at the beach

Q. I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. We would swim in the bay every summer as kids. We all got stung by jellyfish. You didn’t cry to your mama; you just put some meat tenderizer on the sting and you went through the same routine the next day.

I guess that’s why the people there are so tough. It’s weird–you went swimming and got stung, just a part of life there.

A. One-quarter teaspoon meat tenderizer mixed with one teaspoon water to make a paste is a time-honored remedy for a variety of stings (Journal of the American Medical Association, April 24, 1972). The papain enzyme breaks down the protein in the venom.

We have heard from people who have used it on bee stings, wasp stings and ant bites as well as jellyfish stings. Mixing the powder with vinegar also seems to help. We have more stories about this remedy at www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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  1. Tamara

    Yep, growing up in So. California we used to use meat tenderizer on flea bites. Worked well. I heard from a gas station attendant, of all people, that swabbing vinegar on mosquito and gnat bites can quell the itch and reduce the swelling. Sure enough–it worked for some kind of gnat/fly/mosquito bite I got last year working in the yard. My eye started to swell, I carefully swabbed vinegar on my eye lid and below my eye brow… swelling went down right away. I swabbed ever hour or so… no swelling!!!

  2. Cindy B.

    I keep meat tenderizer in my car’s first aid kit and in my Emergency Evacuation kit to help relieve stings.

  3. WTR

    When us city folks bought a weekend farm in 1972 our good neighbors gave us this advice (along with a lot of other good things): Keep a bottle of meat tenderizer in the kitchen or on the back porch because one of the kids will get stung by wasps and bees about every week. How true! We all took advantage of that SAME bottle which is still good today! It’s found on the spice shelves in your grocery store.

  4. ebl

    I grew up on the coast of Florida and lived there all my life. We used household
    ammonia on jellyfish stings as well, before we had meat tenderizer. My mother used
    it on bee stings, and other stings and it seemed to “pull” the poison out.

  5. Noemi

    Yes, mixing meat tenderizer with vinegar works when stung by jelly fish. I was swimming in the Mediterranean Sea some years back when the whole Med was infested with jellyfish (hard not to swim in the sea). We first put alcohol on the area then applied the paste, worked like a charm. People just carried it with them when they went swimming. Works on other stings too.

  6. gma.

    Vinegar is the recommended treatment for jellyfish stings. Most people rinse it off with water which makes the stinging worse. Weird, huh?
    Put it in a spray bottle, take to the beach, and spray on the sting.

  7. cpmt

    sorry I never heard of meat tenderizer, where do you get that? Do you use it with meats in cooking? And, can you use it also for bee stings? thanks

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