It’s great weather for enjoying the seashore at Sunshine Coast beaches, but the marine stingers think so too. And the onshore northerlies on Sunshine Coast beaches means blue-bottles aplenty. Some beachgoers have said it’s the worst summer they can remember for these stinging ocean dwellers, with about 9,000 people reported being stung between 20 December and 10 January. They were so numerous at Bribie Island that the beach was closed for the first weekend of the new year.

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 that is native to Moreton Bay. One of these was found on the beach at Warana in December 2016; however, their usual habitat is a little further south. 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 Queensland hospitals are well-equipped to deal with victims of Irukandji syndrome.

To be safe in the sea at Sunshine Coast beaches, always swim between the flags, heed any warnings of the presence of marine stingers, carry a bottle of vinegar with you, consider wearing protective clothing such as a full body lycra suit, sun-suit, dive skin, rashie or pantyhose, and if you see a Morbakka (or are stung), get out of the water and alert others immediately.

Make sure your CPR and first aid are up-to-date, so you are fully prepared for the unexpected at the beach or any other favourite recreational spot from Noosa to Caloundra.

First aid and CPR courses can be booked by visiting our website and booking online, or by calling our Sunshine Coast office on 5438 8888






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