Summer is a fun time for many Aussies on the Gold Coast, and now that the season is here, more and more people are hitting the beaches. Sadly, beach experiences don’t always turn out to be great, like when the bluebottle epidemic hit the state last summer.
During the first weekend of January 2019, strong northeasterly winds forced a bloom of jellyfish ashore, stinging a record number of 2,630 of beach goers in Queensland. According to Surf Life Saving Queensland, many suffered anaphylactic shock, a severe allergic reaction. Because of this epidemic, several beaches were forced to close, including Tugun, Northcliffe, Rainbow, and Coolangatta.
This summer, there’s a strong possibility for the same situation to arise. And it’s not only swimmers who are at risk, but people walking along the beach as well. If you and your family plan to visit any Gold Coast beaches this season, then it’s important to recognise a Bluebottle, learn the effects of its sting, and most importantly, know what to do if you are stung.
What is a Bluebottle?
The Bluebottle, also known as Pacific Man-of-War, is a type of jellyfish that inhabits the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It’s usually encountered by people on the eastern coast of Australia during the summer months and is the most common cause of jellyfish stings in the country.
What you need to be most beware of is the bluebottle’s tentacle. It is the part that stings and can hurt you even when the Bluebottle is washed up on the beach. The larger skin contact you have with the tentacle, the more serious the sting will be.
When a Bluebottle tentacles touches you, remove them and the stingers right away by washing with seawater. If you can’t avoid picking them off your skin, then cover your hands with a towel or any piece of cloth. This will prevent you from getting stung again.
Bluebottle Sting Effects
The sting of Bluebottles is usually not lethal but can cause severe health problems for children, the elderly, and people with allergies if not treated immediately. You’ll know that you’ve been stung by a Bluebottle if you experience the following:
- An abrupt and terrible pain that will last for an hour.
- A swollen and itchy red line on the skin where the tentacle made contact.
- Blisters and very rarely, some scarring.
How to Treat Bluebottle Sting
Once you’ve experienced severe pain after making contact with a Bluebottle, you must treat the affected part of the skin right away and do the following:
- Dip the affected area in hot water for a minimum of 20 minutes. A hot shower will also work. Just remember to keep the water temperature to a level that you can tolerate.
- Hot water is the best treatment to reduce the pain but if none is available, then you can do ice compress instead. DO NOT use vinegar.
- After 20 minutes, remove briefly then re-immerse the affected skin area in hot water.
- Repeat the first three steps until the pain stops.
- If the pain persists or the wound worsens, then see a doctor immediately.
Allergic Reactions & Anaphylactic Shock
Some people can develop allergic reactions to the sting of a Bluebottle and on rare occasions, can turn to a severe case called anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic reaction can be deadly. That’s why anyone who suffers from anaphylaxis must be given an adrenaline shot right away and be taken to a hospital. Antihistamine, the common medicine for allergies, is not effective against anaphylactic reaction.
If you’ve experienced anaphylaxis before, then there’s a higher risk for you to have one again when stung by a Bluebottle. The same is true if your family has a history of anaphylaxis or asthma. In these cases, you should carry an adrenaline shot whenever going to the beach.
The symptoms of anaphylactic shock may look like just an ordinary allergic reaction at first, but after less than an hour, they will include the following:
- difficulty in breathing or tightness of the chest
- lingering pain and itching on the infected area
- runny nose, coughing, and sneezing
- rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath
- fainting, weakness, or dizziness
- vomiting or diarrhea
Seek Medical Advice
Whether or not you’ve experienced an anaphylactic reaction, it’s always best to see a doctor immediately if the pain, blistering, or itchiness persists after a Bluebottle sting. This will ensure that proper treatment will be made and prevent the worst scenarios from happening.
Nevertheless, knowing what do if you get stung by a Bluebottle is still important and a great way to protect your family from further harm. Just remember to be careful when going to the beach this summer. Always be aware of your surroundings while enjoying the nice blue waters of the Gold Coast.
Greg Keily Chemist
Now that you know how to a bluebottle summer, you can enjoy the Gold Coast beaches and swimming the entire season without worrying. But if you experience any symptoms after enjoying the beautiful waters, then you can visit our store at 98 Marine Parade, Southport or call us at 07 5555 7877 to know more about the medical supplies you may need.
Greg Keily Chemist has been serving the Southport community for four decades by providing the best over the counter and prescription medicines. Our qualified and experienced pharmacists are always available for all your medication needs.