Australia’s waters are home to many interesting and fascinating creatures, including jellyfish, some of which can be the cause of painful stings!
Although they are generally quite easy to avoid, they can cause discomfort if you are stung. The intensity and severity of a sting varies on a range of factors including type of stinger, location of the sting, and the health and fitness of the victim.
Marine Stinger Safety
Prevention & Personal Safety
- Always swim at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags
- Look for and obey safety signs
- Don’t enter the water when beaches are closed
- Ask a lifesaver or lifeguard for help and advice if you need it
- Don’t touch marine stingers washed up on the beach, they can still sting you
- In tropical waters, it is also recommended that you take these additional measures
- Swim in the stinger nets where provided
- It is recommended that a full-body lycra suit, or equivalent, be worn to provide a good measure of protection against marine stings, particularly during the stinger season, which generally runs from November to May. If you are unable to wear a stinger suit, a rash vest is advisable.
- Enter the water slowly – this can give marine stingers time to move away
Symptoms for Irukandji stings may take 20-40 minutes to develop, if in doubt seek medical aid.
There are approximately 30 marine stinger enclosures on Queensland beaches north of Banny Point which is south of Gladstone; most are operated by Uninet Enclosures. They have a mesh size of 25mm and are designed to exclude large box jellyfish and large segments of box jellyfish tentacles, and in the right locations, i.e. beaches with a moderate tidal range, are very effective at doing this. They do not exclude small segments of box jellyfish or Irukandji. When swimming inside marine stinger enclosures it is important not to play on or sink the float surrounding the net as there is potential for you to expose not only yourself but other members of the public to harmful marine stingers that may swim over the top of the float.
Patrolled locations that have swimming enclosures include:
Port Douglas, Ellis Beach, Palm Cove, Clifton Beach, Kewarra Beach, Trinity Beach, Yorkeys Knob, Bramston Beach, Etty Bay, Mission Beach, South Mission Beach, Forrest Beach, Balgal Beach, Pallarenda Beach, The Strand, Strand South, Picnic Bay, Holloways Beach, Bucasia.
Protective Lagoons are provided at Cairns, Thuringowa and Airlie Beach.
Enclosures are generally operated from November to May.
Dangerous and potentially deadly marine stingers occur in estuaries, on reefs and in waters adjacent to islands and coastal beaches north of Bustard Heads in Queensland, across the north coast of Australia and south to Exmouth in Western Australia. Whilst the ‘High-Risk Marine Stinger season’ may vary depending on the region different types of marine stingers may be present all year round, particularly in the coastal areas of the Northern Territory.
Surf Life Saving Queensland recommends that individuals entering the water wear protective swimwear designed specifically to reduce the incidence of a marine sting, such parameters include:
- A mesh size no greater than 200 microns (200/1000th of a mm or 1/5 of a mm)
- Opaque clothing which offers a high degree of sun protection
- Synthetic smooth fabrics are preferable (rather than cotton) as there is less of a chance that tentacles will stick, possibly leading to secondary marine stings
- Heat-retention properties should be appropriate to the environment
- Clothing that covers over 75% of the body’s skin surface, i.e. a full-body Lycra suit or equivalent which will provide a reasonable measure of protection from life-threatening marine stings
It is important for swimmers not to rely on standard stinger protective swimwear to provide adequate protection during times of heavy marine stinger infestation. Protective swimwear should also be regularly inspected for holes, loose threading, broken or damaged zippers and other causes of decreased effectiveness, and where required replaced or repaired.
It is possible to be stung on exposed skin, such as hands, face and feet, but most stings occur on parts of the body that are typically covered by protective clothing. Pantyhose are less desirable than Lycra because they may easily run, providing less protection. Be aware of loose or billowing clothing that may trap jellyfish against the skin; tuck in any loose-fitting clothing.
1. Call for help: Dial 000 for an ambulance, seek help from a lifesaver or lifeguard
2. Emergency care: Provide CPR if required
3. Treat the sting: Flood the site of the sting with vinegar for a minimum 30 seconds
4. Seek medical aid: Transport to hospital
Irukandji Syndrome may take up to 40 minutes to appear after the sting so it is important to monitor someone for 45 minutes in a safe location out of the water after tropical jellyfish sting. All tropical jellyfish stings should be doused with vinegar.
Sub-tropical Coastal Regions (Agnes Water to Yeppoon)
- Vinegar (minimum 5 litres)
- Ice packs/ice
- Oxygen equipment
Tropical Coastal Regions (north of Yeppoon)
- Vinegar (minimum 10 litres)
- Ice packs/ice
- Oxygen equipment