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How to Treat a Bluebottle Sting

Bluebottles are a common non-tropical stinger around Australia’s coast. If you visit the Gold Coast you have a very real chance of encountering one of the stinging little suckers.

They have a small blue air-filled sac and usually one single tentacle that can be more than a metre long making it very easy for them to tangle around limbs, causing a sting.

Bluebottles stings can vary from a minor inconvenience to a searing pain depending on the individual. Either way there are ways to treat a sting that work, and some urban myths that don’t.

Bluebottle Sting Treatment

Prevention is always better than cure. If you know there are many Bluebottles about, it might be a good idea to stay out the water, however they can surprise you too.

If you’re unfortunate enough to get stung, Surf Life Saving Australia has the following advice:

What DOES work:

  • Wash off any remaining tentacles with seawater, or pick off with your fingers (they can’t usually sting through thetough skin on your fingers!)
  • Immerse the patient’s sting in hot water (no hotter than can be easily tolerated)
  • If local pain is not relieved or immersion facilities are not available, the application of cold packs or wrapped ice is also effective.

What DOESN’T work:

  • Rubbing sand over the sting – it just gives you a rash around the sting
  • Pouring soft drinks over the sting – just makes it sticky
  • Pouring vinegar over the skin – is vitally important for TROPICAL marine stings, but not for non-tropical stings
  • Urinating over the sting  – it’s just gross, and doesn’t work anyway!

Bluebottle Fun Facts

  • Bluebottles are a non-tropical stinger
  • They’re hermaphrodites!
  • The most common Bluebottle found in Australia is the Physalia utriculus
  • Although it looks like one creature, it is actually a colony made up of  tiny animals called ‘zooids’ that work together, but can not survive without each other.
    – The Float: A gas-filled polyp that keeps the Bluebottle afloat
    – The Tentacles (Dactylozooids): Hang below the water’s surface and help detect prey
    – The Mouths – yes more than one! (Gastrozooids):  Consume the food that the tentacles drag up
    – The Reproductive Structures (Gonozooids): This part of the colony sheds eggs and sperm into the water
  • Bluebottles feed mostly on larval fish and small crustaceans



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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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