DO NOT USE VINEGAR ..
Dangerous jellyfish known commonly as Bluebottles or Portuguese man’o War have been washing up on Phuket’s beaches for the past week or so causing much consternation and fear among beach users and authorities.
The Bluebottles have also been causing much confusion among many people with some experts saying that vinegar should be used to treat a sting. The fact is that vinegar should NOT be used to treat a bluebottle sting.
Here is what to do if stung by a Bluebottle:
Keep the victim at rest, reassure and keep under constant observation
- Do not allow rubbing of the sting area.
- Pick off any tentacles (this is not dangerous to the rescuer) and rinse sting area well with seawater to remove invisible nematocysts
- Place the victim’s stung area in hot water (no hotter than the rescuer can comfortably tolerate) for 20 minutes.
If local pain is unrelieved by heat, or if hot water is not available, apply a cold pack or ice in a dry plastic bag.
- If pain persists or is generalised, if the sting area is large (half of a limb or more), or involves sensitive areas (eg the eye) call an ambulance and seek assistance from a lifesaver/lifeguard if available.
Until recently tropical and non-tropical Bluebottle stings were treated differently. The Australian Resuscitation Council’s latest guidelines recommend that vinegar NOT be used for any species of Bluebottle (Physalia physalis in Australia and Physalia utriculus in South-East Asia) whether in the tropics or temparate climate and the above procedure be strictly applied.
The deadly Chironex species of Box Jellyfish is the most likely culprit that caused a life-threatening sting to a British woman on a West Railay beach in June 2011.
- Some of the life-threatening stings suffered by a British woman while swimming at beautiful West Railay beach, Krabi in June 2011
The woman reported that she was swimming at around 6pm when she felt exruciating pain on her legs, arm and abdoman. With up to 4 tentacles still on her body, the woman emerged from the sea experiencing severe pain as though her entire body was on fire and she began hyperventilating. The sting was later deemed as ‘life-threatening’ and it was her controlled breathing and quick action that most likely saved her life.
There were no warning signs at the beach or resorts. No staff warned that there was the risk of a sting. The woman was helped to a nearby restaurant where a staff member suggested that she apply vinegar to the stings – no vinegar was available! This staff member told the woman that he often sees people stung yet even so nothing is made available or done to ensure that stings can be treated on the spot and lives potentially saved.
Last November a Spanish woman was severaly stung at the same place – it is presumed that many are stung but do not report so no official acknowledgement is made. The only reason this recent case is known is because the woman went to the trouble of reporting it. All stings should be reported. Contact either the Phuket Marine Biological Centre, Thailand Dept of Public Health (Bureau of Epidemiology) or the Marine Medic – all websites are listed in this blog profile.
The Chironex Box Jellyfish venom stops the will to breathe and it was the controlled breathing of this woman over a 2 hour period of intense pain and suffering that most likely kept her alive.
The woman has experienced prolonged nerve problems and loss of appetite since the sting. The scarring is severe at the moment but should heal well if properly treated.
With plenty of mangrove areas in around Krabi, Ao Nang and Railay beaches providing excellent habitat for Box Jellyfish, it is advised that all people swimming in or using the water in the region should carry their own vinegar and preferably wear a lycra suit.
The Chironex species of Box Jellyfish in potentially lethal whether it be in Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia or Australia.
In Australia Chironex fleckeri has a fearsome reputation and is responsible for deaths and serious stings all across the tropical northern coast. Its presence, unlike that of its Asian cousins, is seasonal though it is often sighted outside of the October to May range.
This blog with associated home video shows a 7 year old boy Osborne Kewe from Townsville in Australia who received a life-threatening box jellyfish sting. He is alive today only because a nurse on hand kept him alive with CPR while others knew to splash vinegar on his stings and NOT to remove the tentacles by scraping or rubbing or pulling which makes matters worse.