With the warming of our oceans as a result of climate change, we can expect the normally tropical jellyfish (especially the Irukanji as well as the Box Jellyfish) moving south and, eventually, onto Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and northern NSW beaches. In any case, hot and humid summer time weather coupled with predominant northerly winds results in increased incidence of marine stingers generally.
Here are Surf Lifesaving Queensland’s safety tips and treatment if you are likely to enter waters where you suspect Irukanji may be present:
Stinger safety tips
- Wear protective clothing (wet suit or lycra stinger suit), to reduce exposure to potential stings
- Protect your face and avoid putting your head underwater at high-risk locations
- In the absence of a full lycra suit, wear other protective clothing such as long pants tucked into socks
- Enter water slowly as marine stingers will often swim away from people given the opportunity and time.
- Remove the patient from the water if safe to do so
- Treat using DRSABCD (Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillation)
- Treat the sting. Douse the area liberally with vinegar for at least 30 seconds
- Monitor the patient and seek medical assistance.
Note: Because the symptoms of Irukanji Syndrome may take time to appear following a sting, all tropical jellyfish stings should be doused with vinegar and the casualty should remain out of the water, in a safe location with someone to monitor them, for at least 45 minutes, as the casualty may appear stable initially before the onset of symptoms.
For a full list of marine stingers, their description, incidence and treatment - especially those to be found in Australian waters – see the list under ‘Poisoning, bites and stings ‘ at www.otteraquatics.com.au/first-aid-training.html.