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First Aid Info

Bluebottle stings

Physalia (bluebottle, Portugese man-o’-war)



Image above: Physalia or Blue Bottle

Physalia are found Australia-wide and in most warm oceans worldwide.

They appear as an air filled sac up to 8 cms long with a single blue tentacle up to a metre in length hanging underneath. A less common species has a larger float and numerous main fishing tentacles.

Signs and symptoms of physalia sting
  • Pain and a burning sensation
  • Usually a single raised white welt with a prominent ‘beading’ effect
  • Occasionally difficulty breathing
  • May develop into irukandji syndrome

What should be done in the case of a non-tropical marine sting?

If you are stung, or are with someone else who has been stung, the treatment will vary depending on your location and what type of stinger is involved. In non-tropical waters, the treatment is as follows:

For Physalia (Bluebottle) stings
  • Keep the patient at rest and under constant observation.
  • Do not allow rubbing of the sting area.
  • Pick off any remaining tentacles with fingers (a harmless prickling may be felt).
  • Rinse the stung area well with seawater to remove any invisible stinging cells.
  • Place the patient’s stung area in hot water (no hotter than the rescuer can comfortably tolerate).
  • If the pain is unrelieved by the heat, or if hot water is not available, apply cold packs or wrapped ice.

For other non-tropical minor jellyfish stings
  • Keep the patient at rest and under constant observation.
  • Do not allow rubbing of the sting area.
  • Pick off any remaining tentacles with fingers (a harmless prickling may be felt).
  • Rinse the stung area well with seawater to remove any invisible stinging cells.
  • Do not wash the sting with fresh water.
  • Apply cold packs or wrapped ice for pain.
If local pain is unrelieved by these treatments, or generalised pain develops, or the sting area is large (half of a limb or more), or if the patient appears to be suffering an allergic reaction to the sting, seek urgent medical help (dial Triple Zero (000) and get a surf lifesaver or lifeguard).

For more information, go to www.marinestingers.com.au/safety
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