The bluebottle jellyfish is a common sight in coastal waters around the world. While generally harmless to humans, they can deliver a painful sting. The venom of this jellyfish is potent enough to kill small fish and sea creatures. So if you’re swimming or boating in an area where these creatures are known to be present, it’s best to take precautions.
Always check for signs warning of their presence, and if you get stung, seek medical help immediately. Treatments available can lessen the sting’s effects, but it’s always better to avoid getting stung in the first place.
Bluebottles are Not True Jellyfish
What do bluebottle jellyfish look like? It is a species of venomous marine jellyfish, presenting a significant risk to swimmers and beachgoers in Australian waters. It gets its name from the blue colour of its floating barrel-like pneumatophore, which is inflated with gas and provides buoyancy.
The bluebottle (Physalia physalis) is also commonly known as the Portuguese man-of-war due to its similarities in appearance to the 17th-century sailing vessels of that name. Despite their striking resemblance, bluebottles are not true jellyfish but colonial organisms composed of several individual zooids, each with a specific function.
Beaches in Australia with Reported Bluebottles
Bluebottle jellyfish are reported along the east coast of Australia from northern New South Wales to southern Queensland. In summer, they are also found in waters off Western Australia and South Australia. Bluebottle jellyfish feed on small fish, crustaceans, and other marine invertebrates.
What Causes a Bluebottle Sting?
The bluebottle’s venomous sting is what makes bluebottle jellyfish such a dangerous predator in the ocean. The sting is delivered by long, thread-like nematocysts fired into the skin of unsuspecting victims. Its venom contains a mixture of phenols and proteins that kills its prey but is harmless to humans. However, children, the elderly, and people with allergies may develop a severe allergic reaction to these proteins or phenols.
How Does a Bluebottle Jellyfish Sting Feel?
A bluebottle jellyfish sting feels like a sharp, burning pain. The pain is caused by the jellyfish’s venom, which is injected into the skin when the jellyfish’s tentacles come into contact with it. The venom causes the area around the sting to swell, become red and be very itchy. The sting is excruciating that may last for hours or even several days. In some cases, it can also lead to:
- difficulty breathing
- the pain can be so severe that it requires hospitalisation
The tentacles moving about your body or touching the stung area worsen this pain. If you are stung by a bluebottle, it is essential to find medical assistance as soon as possible.
How Do You Know It’s a Bluebottle Sting?
The intense burning pain can recognise a bluebottle jellyfish sting it causes, as well as the red marks that it leaves on the skin. In some cases, the sting may also cause swelling and blistering.
Bluebottle Sting First Aid Steps
If you are stung by a bluebottle jellyfish in Australia, it is important to follow the proper first aid steps to minimise discomfort and the risk of further injury. What you need to do:
Remove the tentacles
Removing any remaining tentacles from the skin is vital as they can continue to sting even after the jellyfish is no longer present. This can be done with a pair of tweezers or by carefully rubbing the affected area with a piece of sandpaper, credit card, or similar object.
Rinse the wound
Once the tentacles have been removed, rinse the affected area with seawater (if available) or vinegar. Do not use fresh water, as this can trigger further stinging.
Apply a cold compress
Applying a cold compress for 10 or 15 minutes to the affected area can help to reduce pain and swelling. Do this if running water is not available.
Seek medical attention
If you experience severe pain, swelling, or difficulty breathing, seek medical help immediately, as these may be signs of a more serious reaction.
Monitor the wound
Even after following the above steps, monitoring the affected area for signs of infection or further reaction is vital. If you experience any redness, swelling, or pain that persists or worsens, call triple zero (000) or your local Adelaide hotline.
Complications of a Bluebottle Sting in Adelaide CBD
Each complication of the bluebottle jellyfish sting is severe and can be life-threatening. The most common complications are anaphylaxis, cardiac arrest, and death. Other possible complications include:
- Neurological damage
- Muscle pain and cramping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Respiratory distress
Severe Allergic Reaction from a Jellyfish Sting
Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction. It can occur after exposure to an allergen or an animal sting. Common symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing.
Anaphylactic reactions can occur very quickly and can be deadly if not treated immediately. If you are allergic to jellyfish stings, it is essential to carry an epinephrine injector and know how to use it.
Cardiac Arrest from a Bluebottle Sting
It is possible to get cardiac arrest from a bluebottle jellyfish sting. The venom of the bluebottle jellyfish can cause an abnormal heart rhythm, leading to cardiac arrest. This is a very rare complication of a bluebottle jellyfish sting, but it can occur.
First Aid Steps for Cardiac Arrest
When someone has a cardiac arrest, it is a medical emergency, and they will need immediate attention and intervention. First aid for a cardiac arrest involves performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to try and restart the person’s heart. If you are trained in CPR, you must start chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute. You will also need to call for emergency medical help.
If you are not trained in CPR, you will need to call for emergency medical help and let the operator talk you through the resuscitation steps. CPR training in Adelaide for cardiac arrest is vital to save a person’s life.
Ways to Prevent a Jellyfish Sting in Adelaide
If swimming in waters with jellyfish, take extra care and precautions to prevent getting stung. Here’s how.
- Wear a wetsuit or protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Avoid touching jellyfish, even if they appear to be dead. If you must touch one, use gloves or some other barrier between your skin and the jellyfish.
- Use caution when swimming near areas where jellyfish have been seen, and be sure to watch for any signs of them in the water.
If you get stung by a jellyfish, rinse the area with salt water as soon as possible. Get medical help if necessary.
In Australia, bluebottle jellyfish stings are a relatively common occurrence. While the sting is not usually life-threatening, it can be excruciating and cause significant discomfort. Jellyfish activity and stings have been reported each year all across Australia. Enrolling in a first aid course at Level 1/174 Gilles St, Adelaide 5000 is beneficial in knowing how to treat a jellyfish sting.
Apart from SA, CPR First Aid (RTO 21903) offers various CPR and first aid courses in different Australian locations. Give us a call or send us your enquiry for more information.