Rare purple flags fly Monday at Emerald Isle beaches due to increased marine life after some are stung

North Carolina news

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Purple flags were flying at Emerald Isle beaches on Monday due to an above-average marine life presence close to the shore.

William Matthias, Ocean Rescue coordinator and fire marshal for the Town of Emerald Isle, said there were 15 first-aid calls on Sunday and five on Saturday after people were stung by jellyfish. No EMS calls were made for any of the stings.

Matthias believes the stings are from schools of sea nettle jellyfish. The sea nettle jellyfish stings occurred throughout the 12-mile beach strand in Emerald Isle. They did not occur in just one location.

This is the first time this season that the purple flags have flown at Emerald Isle beaches. 

“When we see this above-normal presence of sea life or marine life in the water, we try to let the public know,” Matthias said. “We do only fly those at the towers and on our vehicles so beachgoers can come up and ask the lifeguards exactly what the purple flag is flying for. 

Matthias said sea nettle jellyfish have been spotted in the water Monday and, as of 1 p.m. no sea nettle jellyfish stings have occurred. Not long after, a woman was seen getting vinegar poured on her foot by a lifeguard. When asked if she was stung by a jellyfish, they said “yes.”

Matthias said for jellyfish stings, people should treat it with normal first-aid care. They advise people to rinse the sting with seawater, scrape the infected area with a flat surface such as a credit card or popsicle stick, and after each scrape to clean the wound with more seawater. 

Matthias said vinegar is the best way to treat jellyfish stings, with hot water next. Hot water helps dissolve the toxins from the jellyfish. He said it is a myth to urinate on jellyfish stings and highly recommends not urinating on stings because it could cause an infection. 

Marine life will be monitored every day until the number of jellyfish stings decreases. Then they will take down the purple flags.

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