Jellyfish are marine animals characterised by their jelly-like bodies, their radial symmetry, and the cells on their tentacles that literally explode when stimulated by prey. They are among the oldest animals on earth; their fossil record stretches back for almost 600 million years.

Most poisonous animals deliver their venom by biting, but not jellyfish, which have evolved specialised structures called nematocysts. There are thousands of nematocysts in each of the thousands of cells on a jellyfish's tentacles. When stimulated, they build up an internal pressure of over 2,000 pounds per square inch (13,790 kilopascals) and explode, piercing the skin of the victim and delivering thousands of tiny doses of venom. So potent are nematocysts that they can be activated even when a jellyfish is beached or dying, which accounts for incidents where dozens of people are stung by a single, seemingly expired jellyfish.

Allens Training has available a Jellyfish Stings chart that details the signs and symptoms associated with jellyfish stings, and the first aid treatments that apply to both tropical and non-tropical stings. The chart can be downloaded as a PDF from the Allens Training Sunshine Coast website:

Bites and stings are just one of the topics covered in an Allens Training course on the Sunshine Coast at one of out three training venues: Birtinya, Maroochydore and Nambour.

Treatment of jellyfish stings depends on whether the creature is tropical or not tropical, with the Tropic of Capricorn being the approximate dividing line.

For tropical stings, the priority is to preserve life:

·         Remove the casualty from the water; restrain if necessary; resuscitate if required

·         Liberally dose the stung area with vinegar if it is available; pick off the tentacles; rinse with seawater

·         Do not apply fresh water

·         Apply a cold pack

·         Seek medical advice (000, lifeguard)

For non-tropical stings, the priority is to relieve pain:

·         Rest, reassure and monitor the casualty

·         Do not use vinegar or rub the sting area

·         Pick off tentacles; rinse with seawater

·         Place in hot water for 20 minutes if available; if heat brings no relief, apply a cold pack

One of the most dangerous animals on earth may be the tropical box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri), also known as the sea wasp. Its bell is about the size of a basketball and its tentacles can be up to 3 metres long. It inhabits the tropical waters of Australia and southeast Asia. Just grazing the tentacles will produce excruciating pain, and if contact is widespread and prolonged, a full-grown person can die in as little as two to five minutes; however, Australian fatalities are rare (three, all children, confirmed in the period 2000-2013).

Another dangerous jellyfish inhabiting tropical waters is the Irukandji. Unlike other jellyfish, which have stingers on their tentacles only, Irukandji have stingers on their bell also. Irukandji syndrome is a condition induced by venomisation by the sting of Carukia barnesi, a species of Irukandji jellyfish. Although considered life-threatening, the number of fatalities in Australia is small (two confirmed in the period 2000-2013); however, dozens of people are hospitalised from Irukandji Syndrome every year. 

The most common stinger on the Sunshine Coast beaches is the bluebottle, which is not really a jellyfish, but a creature called a siphonophore. Nevertheless, it is a stinger that can inflict a high level of pain and discomfort. The bluebottle is found in marine waters throughout Australia. They are more common on exposed ocean beaches after strong onshore winds and are rarely found in sheltered waters.

So, make sure you’re prepared in a stinger emergency! Carry the Allens Training Jellyfish Stings chart in your beach bag, and make sure your first aid training is up-to-date.

To schedule your next first aid course, please book online via our secure website or phone 07 5438 8888.














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