Bluebottles - Urine? Ice? Hot water?

Blue bottle jellyfish washed up on the north coast of NSW

Blue bottle jellyfish washed up on the north coast of NSW

It’s been all over the news - thousands of people have been stung by huge numbers of bluebottle jellyfish on the Queensland coast of the past week.

Bluebottles are nothing new, however it is the large swarms of them and the number of people being stung that is unusual. There are also reports of rare giant bluebottles giving nasty stings that are causing an increase in presentations to emergency departments.

There are plenty of urban myths when it comes to the first aid for bluebottle stings - and no, urine isn’t effective (we may or may not have tried this, not admitting anything). The sting from a bluebottle can be quite painful, however is normally limited to local pain. Hospital treatment may be required if the sting is to a very large or sensitive area, or causes swelling around a limb, throat or torso - ie the sting wraps fully around the limb or body. Be aware that the sting can be life threatening if the person has an anaphylactic reaction.

The correct first aid is:

  1. Was area with copious amounts of sea water (NOT fresh water).

  2. Pick off any remaining tentacles (do not rub).

  3. Place the stung area in hot water (not hot enough to cause a burn, only as hot as the victim can tolerate) for up to 20 minutes.

  4. if the pain persists, repeat the hot water for another 20 minutes, repeat cycle for up to 2 hours.

  5. if pain persists or you are concerned, seek medical help.

To learn more, watch our video below on the first aid for bluebottle stings: