Jan 14 2011

First Aid for Bluebottle Stings

We went for a walk along Surfer’s Paradise beach this morning, thinking we would come across some flotsam or jetsam after the awful Brisbane floods (dead cows or dead couches?). However, all we found on the sand was our old friend, the bluebottle. 

There were lots of people swimming nonetheless, which reminded me that I should check what is the best evidence on  first aid for a bluebottle sting – sand, vinegar, cold water, hot water, cream?

The answer is hot water.

The Medical Journal of Australia published a paper in 2006 which demonstrated that hot water immersion at 45 degrees produced a 87% reduction in pain, compared with 33% of those treated with ice.


Therapeutic Guidelines (tg.org.au) recommends – 

– wash the sting site with sea water
– remove any tentacles
– hot water immersion at 45 degrees for 20 minutes, or a hot shower
– no vinegar

The Resuscitation Council has a paper on jellyfish envenomation at


To complicate things, Although vinegar makes bluebottle stings worse, it can decrease the nermatocyst discharge from the potentially lethal Box Jellyfish and (probably) jellyfish that cause the Irukandji syndrome, and so the application of vinegar for 30 seconds is considered good first aid practice in tropical Australia.

So, hot water is best for Bluebottles. If there is a possibility that a tropical jellyfish caused the sting, then use Vinegar.

Best of all – don’t swim when there are jellyfish about.

What I Learnt On 14th January in other years

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