How to Treat a Bluebottle Sting

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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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