Parent’s Guide: How to treat a Jellyfish Sting

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One of our country’s greatest pleasures is to enjoy a hot summer’s day swimming with our kids at the beach. Unfortunately, there are a few hidden dangers lurking in the water that can spoil your fun, particularly for your children. One of the more common dangers is a sting from a Jellyfish.

The most harmful stings are those from tropical Jellyfish such as the Box Jellyfish, but a sting from the cold water Bluebottle can also be painful.

This article is NOT intended to cover treatment of severe Jellyfish stings such as that of the Box Jellyfish. They will require immediate medical attention and anti-venom.

Every time your child swims in the ocean, they’re at risk of being stung. After all, humans are the aliens in this natural environment, though a jellyfish doesn’t ‘attack’ to protect itself. It simply floats around and its tentacles will sting in defense when they touch something.

Treatment for Jellyfish stings

  • First, get your child out of the water (remember the ‘D’ in D.R.A.B.C.). Where there is one jellyfish there is usually a swarm.
  • Make sure you stay calm, and try to keep your child calm, too. Moving around a lot will make the pain worse as it encourages more venom to flow from the tentacles.
  • Next, pour vinegar over the tentacles. This helps to deaden them and calm the effect of the sting.
  • Remove any tentacles but be careful. If possible use a stick or thick rubber gloves to do this.
  • If you don’t have vinegar to hand, then rinse with salt water. NEVER rinse with fresh water, as this will activate the stingers on the tentacles and increase any symptoms.
  • Watch out for allergic reactions and anaphylaxis. If you see any of the symptoms associated with this, carry out the necessary first aid and call for an ambulance immediately.

Finally, for Bluebottle stings place the stung area of the body in the hottest water possible, and if the pain doesn’t subside then use cold packs.

IMPORTANT: Test the temperature of the water yourself to make sure it is not too hot.  The victim may not be able to feel the heat of the water due to the sting which could lead to a severe burn.

Remember, non-tropical Jellyfish stings are a common occurrence in many parts of Australia. Our lifeguards and lifesavers are there to help. They’ll always have vinegar on hand and will be able to let you know if further medical attention is required. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help.

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