If you plan on heading to the beaches in southern Italy anytime soon, you might want to grab a bottle of white vinegar along with the sun block.

Medical experts say applying the vinegar can ease the pain of the stings inflicted by mauve stinger jellyfish, which is common in Mediterranean waters.

The jellyfish have been spotted in the waters surrounding the Campania region and northern Sicily, and much further north in the area of Portofino in Liguria.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of specimens, both along and off the coast,” said Silvio Greco, scientific director at the Institute for Applied Marine Research in an article published Monday by Italian press agency ANSA.

“Jellyfish are not just on the surface but are distributed through the entire depth of the sea. It’s not a good start to the season,” he said.

As its scientific name — pelagia noctiluca — implies, this creature emits a luminescent glow at night. During the day, it looks like a clear floating blob, but with tentacles that grow longer than 12 feet.

The sting from the mauve stinger, as it’s commonly known, isn’t normally lethal, but can induce shock. Usually it causes pain and sometimes permanent scarring.

“In rare cases some people have had skin scarring or some loss of sight if stung in the eyes due to the scarring,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Katherine Conroy of the U.S. Naval Hospital in Naples.

“If you get early medical treatment and evaluation you have a good chance of not having any permanent damage,” Conroy added.

Early treatment is key, but those offering assistance should make sure they don’t get stung in the process.

“Rescuers need to protect themselves when helping a patient out of the water,” Conroy said. She also noted that rinsing affected areas with salt water was helpful, but fresh water would actually do more harm than good, releasing more venom.

“Do not use fresh water; it will make it worse. Call for help or get [the victim] to a medical facility for further treatment, especially if they are having trouble breathing, if they are vomiting, or if they have been stung in the eyes, face, mouth, or genitals,” Conroy said.

Apply vinegar to reduce the pain, Conroy said.

For beach goers last year, jellyfish weren’t much of a problem since they didn’t show up until September.

But this season, they arrived early.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now