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pelagia noctiluca

Jellyfish net in Beaulieu-sur-Mer
Jellyfish net in Beaulieu-sur-Mer

There are no sharks along the Cote d'Azur but there are jellyfish (meduses). The pelagia noctiluca arrive unpredictably, often in swarms. Why? It's a mystery but seems to be a combination of water temperature, tide and winds. (See more here). You may be able to see them singly or in a swarm just beyond the water line but not always. They drift close to the surface and their violet color makes them easy to spot if you wear a mask while swimming. Although not fatal except for rare allergic reactions, a jellyfish sting can be quite painful and the scars can last for months.

I recommend a stop at the pharmacy to pick up a small, inexpensive vial of antidote before heading to the beach. Keep it with you for peace of mind and you'll be prepared in the unhappy event of a jellyfish infestation.

How to Avoid Jellyfish Stings

Avoiding the water completely is foolproof. If no one is in the water on a hot day, jellyfish are usually the reason. Scrutinize the water. Jellyfish float close to the surface and are easily visible. Ask others on the beach or a lifeguard if one is handy. Local pharmacies sell a product called Medusyl which has been found to prevent jellyfish stings by preventing the tentacle from binding. It also works as a sunscreen. Wearing a wet suit or any other covering is also effective as only bare skin is subject to the stinging tentacles.

What to Do if Stung

Although not mortal, a jellyfish sting can be quite painful. If you're stung, it's best to head to the nearest lifeguard/firstaid station as the lifeguards are equipped with an antidote. Do NOT try to wash off the sting in fresh water which will only worsen it. A more effective on-the-spot treatment is to soak the area in salt water and then rub with gravel as you want to remove the stingers. Immersing the area in water as hot as you can stand is also effective. Contrary to myth, urinating on the sting is useless.

How to Avoid Jellyfish

Yes, you can swim and completely avoid jellyfish if you swim where anti-jellyfish nets protect the swimming area. In Nice such nets are impractical but try here:

Larvotto Beach
Nets are in place from mid-June to mid-September

Gazagnaire, Macé and Plages du Midi
Nets are in place in July and August

Nets are in place in July and August

Meanwhile, you can track the location of jellyfish swarms here on a map which is updated daily.

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