What to Do if You Get Stung by a Bluebottle

The Gold Coast beaches offers a great time for many holidaying Aussies every year, and when the sun comes out more and more people are hitting the water. Sadly, you beach experience can turn into a disaster in a matter of minutes during bluebottle season. According to Surf Life Saving Queensland, many beach goers are suffering anaphylactic shock – a severe allergic reaction, and/or minor stings and burns every year from the feared blue jellyfish.

So, if you and your family plan to visit any Gold Coast beaches this season, including the popular Surfer Paradise, Tugun, Northcliffe, Rainbow, and Coolangatta beach, then it’s important to recognise a Bluebottle. In this article we explain the effects of its sting, and most importantly, tell you what what to do if you or someone you know is 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 aware of is the bluebottle tentacles. 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. The Jellyfish stinger releases venom into your flesh, which can get into body tissue and blood vessels in seconds.

If you get in contact with its tentacles, remove them and the stingers right away by washing with seawater to remove any lingering stinging cells.

Bluebottle stings

Bluebottle Sting Effects

The sting of Bluebottles is usually not sever but can cause some health problems for children, the elderly, and people with allergies if not treated immediately. If not treated correctly or immediately, you might need medical attention after an encounter with this jellyfish. You’ll know that you’ve been stung by a Bluebottle if you experience the following:

  • An abrupt and burning intense pain that can last for an hour.
  • A swollen and itchy red line on the skin where the tentacle made contact.
  • Blisters which can result in scarring (these scars usually fade within a few days or weeks).

Treatment Bluebottle Sting

If you have been in contact with a Bluebottle’s tentacles and are certain you have a jellyfish sting, you must treat the affected part of the skin right away to avoid a severe reaction. You can do this by taking the following actions:

  1. The most effective treatment is hot water application. Dip the affected area in hot water for a minimum of 20 minutes. If there is a beach side shower, having a hot shower will also work.
  2. Hot water is the best treatment to reduce the pain but if none is available, then you can do a compress instead using cold packs or ice packs. You can get cold packs for pain relief at your nearest Chemist. DO NOT use vinegar.
  3. After 20 minutes, remove briefly then re-immerse the affected skin area in hot water.
  4. Repeat the first three steps until the pain stops.
  5. If you visit your local Chemist, they might prescribe you cortisone cream or other ointment to help reduce inflammation in a stubborn sting.
  6. If the pain persists or the wound worsens, then see a doctor immediately.

Allergic Reactions & Anaphylactic Shock

Some people can develop allergic reactions to a jellyfish sting and on rare occasions, can turn to a severe case called anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic reaction can be fatal. That’s why anyone who suffers from anaphylaxis must be given an adrenaline shot right away and be taken to a hospital.

Note: 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 sharp 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 an extreme pain, blistering, or itchiness persists after a Bluebottle jellyfish sting. This will ensure you receive the proper treatment and your conditions will not escalate.

Knowing what to do if you get stung by a Bluebottle is important to protect yourself and your family members from further harm. Just remember to be careful when going to the beach this summer. Always be aware of your surroundings while enjoying the Australian beaches and especially the pristine waters of the Gold Coast.


Greg Keily Chemist

Now that you know what to do if you encounter a Bluebottle, you can enjoy the Gold Coast’s beaches and swim without worrying. A great way to avoid getting stung in the first place is to wear protective clothing. But, if you do 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.