Over the weekend, during the height of the Australian summer, a swarm of bluebottle jellyfish stung thousands of beachgoers in Queensland, on Australia’s east coast. According to The New York Times, more than 3,500 stings were reported last weekend.
#CLOSED #BLUEBOTTLE A wall of bluebottles is approaching #Rainbow beach. Lifesavers are closing the beach. Please stay out of the water.
— Surf Life Saving QLD (@lifesavingqld) January 6, 2019
Though it’s not uncommon to find jellyfish in warm waters, there have been more than three times the number of reported stings between now and Dec. 1, the start of summer in Australia, than there were for the same period last year. So far, over a dozen beaches have been closed due to the jellyfish (technically, siphonophores). Their overwhelming presence was likely caused by easterly winds and swells pushing large numbers of jellyfish toward the shore.
“With those winds, we’re predicting that we probably will have some bluebottles and stingers around for the rest of the week,” lifeguard supervisor Rhys Drury told News7 Brisbane, adding that if you’re stung by a bluebottle, you should remove the tentacles immediately before cleaning the area with the hottest water you can stand. Hot water neutralizes the sting, while ice will numb it.
Close-up of two Australian marine stinger bluebottle jellyfish washed up on Gold Coast Beach. Photo by Michelle Lehr / Getty Images.
Jellyfish stings are no joke. There are thousands of jellyfish species, and though some only live for a few weeks, certain kinds can survive for a year or longer. They range in size and color, but no matter how small they might be, their sting can really hurt. Bluebottles are known for delivering an excruciating sting, but it’s not known to be deadly to humans.
Beth McCrea, a diver and social media director of the NYC Sea Gypsies, has been stung twice by jellyfish of different varieties, once while bodysurfing in Barbados and another time while snorkeling with dolphins in the Bahamas. “In the first case, I had no idea what was happening. I thought I had been electrocuted or there was a chemical spill,” she told TPG. “I of course knew of jellyfish stings, but had no idea they could feel like that. I ran onto the beach yelling and crying for the lifeguard.”
In McCrea’s case, the treatment was to douse the affected area with vinegar, but treatments may vary depending on the type of jellyfish you’ve been stung by. If you do get stung while traveling, be sure to seek assistance from the lifeguard or a medical professional.
Featured photo by natalie_board / Getty Images.