We love marine life, but how do you treat a marine animal sting?

25 November 2016

The weather has finally warmed up and it is time to hit the beach. But first, you need to be aware of the dangers you might encounter with marine animals and how to treat conditions, such as stings. 

Marine life is amazing but they can be lethal if not approached with caution. Below we have compiled a list of sea creatures you might encounter and what to do in case a family member or friend is stung.


Jimble Jellyfish

Jimble jellyfish

Jimble jellyfish are pretty common at most beaches but they can be hard to see in the water. They are mostly harmless and tend to swim in dense groups and may congregate at the surface. 

Signs of a sting

  • Thin raised welts
  • Red flaring of the skin
  • Itchiness
  • Minor pain, especially on soft skin and younger children

What to do

  • Wash off any remaining tentacles with sea water, or use your fingers to pick them off. If you have access to vinegar, this is the best option to wash the tentacles off with
  • Apply a cold pack or wrapped ice to the sting for 10 minutes or until pain is relieved
  • Find medical aid for further treatment if pain does not deteriorate


Blue Bottle  

Bluebottle jellyfish

Bluebottle jellyfish float on the surface of the water and have a long stinger trailing behind. Their body measures anywhere between 3 to 15cm and their tentacles can range in length from 15cm up to 10m. They are usually found in tropical waters but it is important to be wary of these jellyfish even when washed up on the shore as they can still sting.

Signs of a sting

  • Pain and burning sensation
  • Usually a single raised white welt with a prominent 'beading' effect
  • Occasionally can cause difficulty with breathing

What to do

  • Calm the patient and keep them resting and under constant observation
  • Do not rub the stung area
  • Pick off any remaining tentacles (a harmless prickling may be felt)
  • Wash the stung area with seawater to remove any invisible stinging cells. DO NOT use vinegar on bluebottle jellyfish stings
  • Place the patient's stung area in hot water for 20 minutes
  • If the pain does not subside with heat or it is not accessible, apply a cold pack or wrapped ice to the area
  • Find medical aid if symptoms persist 

Things that don't work for stings

  • Rubbing sand around the sting, it will give you a rash
  • Pouring soft drink over the sting, it just becomes sticky and will not help with the pain
  • Urinating over the sting. A common myth that doesn't actually work!


Blue Ring Octopus 

Blue ringed octopus

A blue ringed octopus can grow up to 20cm in diameter and have a small sack-like body with eight tentacles. Typically, they are a brown/yellow colour but when irritated they appear bright yellow and with lots of blue rings emerging.  

Signs of a sting

  • The bite may be painless but numbness can start to occur within minutes
  • Weakness and difficulty with breathing can start rapidly and if left untreated severe bites can be fatal

What to do

  • Call 000 immediately
  • Use a compression bandage on the affected area and immobilise the patient
  • If required, perform CPR and wait until help arrives




A stingray is a large, flat fish and known for their whip-like tail. Often stingrays are hard to see as they tend to burrow themselves under the sand. This is how people generally step on them causing the stingray to attack with the barb on the end of its tail.

What to do

  • Place the affected area in hot water
  • DO NOT remove the barb. Instead see a doctor to have the barb removed


Ultimately, the beach is great for a fun filled family day, but we want to make sure it's a safe one. 

It is important to remember your limitations when performing first aid. Seek expert medical assistance when required and teach the kids about being beach safe: 

  • Spot the dangers
  • Always go with a friend
  • Find and read the safety signs
  • Emergency - put your hands up and shout

To learn more about beach safety click here.