Beach Safety | Marine Stingers

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Swimming at the beach is a fun and healthy activity for the whole family, but be aware of how to stay safe.

Jellyfish are often present in and around our beaches. The types that sting are called marine stingers. Tropical waters are the main habitat of most marine stingers, and it's rare for them to travel as far south as the Gold Coast, but some weather events such as cyclones can push the stingers further south, so it's good to know what to look for, how to avoid them, and in the event of being stung, how to treat stings.

First and foremost, try to avoid stingers by swimming only between the red and yellow flags on beaches patrolled by lifeguards, and taking care to heed any warning signs. If you see any jellyfish washed up on the beach, make sure you or your children do not touch, because their stingers can still hurt you. If the beach has been closed, do not enter the water.

Of the eight types of stingers that inhabit Australian waters, only five of them are sometimes around the Gold Coast.

Irukandji

Irukandji

The Irukandji is considered to be the most dangerous. A sting by the Irukandji will cause some initial minor pain, then 5-40 minutes later severe generalised muscular pain, headache, vomiting and sweating. Some of these species can cause very high blood pressure that can be life threatening.

If you have been stung by the Irukandji, seek medical attention immediately:

  1. Call 000 for an ambulance.
  2. Flood the site of the sting with vinegar for at least 30 seconds.

Physalia

Physalia Bluebottle Manowar
Physalia, common names are Bluebottle, Portuguese man-o'-war, Pacific man-o'-war

A sting from the Portuguese man-o'-war or Pacific man-o'-war species of Physalia can sometimes cause similar symptoms (often referred to as Irukandji syndrome).

If stung by one of these:

  1. Do not allow rubbing of the sting area.
  2. Remove any tentacles still on the skin.
  3. Rinse it with seawater then place the stung area in hot water (no hotter than the patient can comfortably tolerate).
  4. If hot water doesn't help or isn't available, use ice packs.

Morbakka, Catostylus and Cyanea

  • Morbakka, common names are Fire Jelly, Tamoya, Moreton Bay Stinger
  • Catostylus, common name is Blubber
  • Cyanea, common names are Hair Jelly, Snottie, Lions Mane

For the other non-tropical jellyfish (including the non-tropical Bluebottle sometimes seen at Gold Coast beaches), first aid is quite simple:

  1. Remove any adhering tentacles.
  2. Wash area with seawater (not freshwater).
  3. Apply cold packs for 10 minutes.
  4. Re-apply if skin pain persists.
  5. Send for medical aid if symptoms persist.

With this information in mind, take your kids to the beach and enjoy the the water safely!

Further information

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