It’s great weather for enjoying the seashore on beaches across Australia, but the marine stingers think so too, particularly in Queensland.
The onshore northerlies on various beaches means blue-bottles aplenty. Some beachgoers have said it’s the worst summer they can remember for these stinging ocean dwellers, with a huge number of people reported being stung between 20 December and 10 January on beaches across.
The bluebottle – Physalia utriculus – is commonly referred to as a type jellyfish; however, it is not a ‘true’ jellyfish. Bluebottles float on the top of the water where they are blown by the wind. The poisonous tentacles hanging below the float are armed with stinging cells called nematocysts that inject venom into their prey (fish and other small marine life), and into unsuspecting swimmers.
For humans, the sting is painful but not deadly, and the pain starts to fade after about half an hour, especially if treatment begins promptly. However, children, asthmatics, and people with allergies can be badly affected, some experiencing respiratory distress.
The most effective treatment recommended these days is hot water. But first, remove the tentacles by picking them off with tweezers or gloved fingers, and rinsing the affected area with seawater. Then immerse the area in hot water. Ice can also be used to help with the pain. Rubbing with sand or applying vinegar are not recommended as they may aggravate the sting.
A rarer and more dangerous marine stinger is the Morbakka fenneri, a member of the Irukandji family. A sting from this creature can result in Irukandji syndrome. Symptoms include severe lower back pain, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, profuse sweating, severe cramps and spasms, and a feeling of impending doom.
In this case, because the creature is classed as a tropical stinger, vinegar is the recommended treatment. Vinegar neutralises the discharge mechanism of the stinging cells, making them instantly and permanently unable to discharge any further venom.
First aid priorities are:
- Call 000 or the lifeguard
- Apply CPR if necessary
- Flood the sting area with vinegar
- Seek further medical help if required
However, reports of stings are rare, and hospitals across the country are well-equipped to deal with victims of Irukandji syndrome.
To be safe in the sea, always swim between the flags, heed any warnings of the presence of marine stingers.
A range of first aid, workplace health and safety, and construction and industry courses are available from Allens Training’s extensive partner network of more than 500 qualified trainers across Australia.
If you would like to book into a course and learn the appropriate first aid response for treating stings, you should book into a first aid course.
If you are interested in obtaining a quote for group training, please email Fiona@thefirstaidlady.com.auor phone 0427 571 594.