Updated 27 November 2015

How to treat bluebottle stings this summer

If you venture into the sea this summer, you stand a good chance of brushing up against a bluebottle. Here's our first aid guide to minimizing the pain and treating the sting.


If you accidentally brush against a bluebottle tentacle on the beach or in the ocean, several million cells may inject toxins into the skin during contact, which, for those of us who've experienced it, is very painful. 

If you are a victim of a bluebottle sting, or a friend or family member is, Linda Buys, the author of The Illustrated South African First Aid Manual,  a qualified nurse and owner of a First Aid Training Company, explains what you should do:

Look for the signs and symptoms

• A burning pain at the site of the sting
• A whip-like, swollen, red lesion, which should heal within 1 to 2 days
• Sometimes raised, red lesions may form blisters and leave scarring and increased skin pigmentation
• Secondary bacterial infection may occur
• Rarely, a systemic reaction may occur with symptoms such as widespread itching, nausea, vomiting, headaches and muscle spasms

Read: A travel first-aid kit

How to treat a bluebottle sting:

• Remove any remaining nematocysts (tentacles) by scraping them off with the edge of a plastic card (e.g. credit card), blunt knife, etc. 
• Pour copious amounts of sea water (not fresh water!) over the area.  
• Do not rinse with fresh water, as this will activate the venom.  
• Do not rub the area; also don’t rub it with sand.

Illustration: How to treat a bluebottle sting

Have a look at the complete guide in The Illustrated First Aid manual

Read more:

First aid for gunshot wounds

First aid for heat exhaustion 

Do you know when it's a first aid emergency? 

Image: Abandoned bluebottle jellyfish from iStock

Illustration: © James Berrangé/Penguin Random House (Pty) Ltd 2015


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