Crowds flocked to Manly Beach on the 2022 Australia Day public holiday, albeit social-distanced due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. An Australian Navy helicopter displaying a giant Australian flag flew up and down the beaches, while a motorised paraglider landed on the North Steyne shoreline.
Narrow swimming zones were created between red and yellow marker flags due to unpredictable surf and dangerous rips, whilst surf lifesavers worked overtime to enforce the boundaries, deploying surf craft and megaphones.
However, in addition to the rough surf, some swimmers encountered a bit of a shock in the water as onshore winds blew in bluebottle jellyfish.
A surf lifesaver told Manly Observer “there have been a number of people stung by bluebottles with some emerging from the sea with jellyfish strands still wrapped around them. Those people were treated with hot water. The pain usually recedes after half an hour, so they’re able to go back in the sea and enjoy themselves again.”
Was vinegar applied to help relieve the pain of the stings? “That’s a myth, unfortunately,” the lifesaver revealed (so is the – er – other method), “although vinegar does provide some relief to other types of stings.
“We remove any tentacles with seawater then run hot water on the sting to help deactivate the poison. Keeping still is about the best way to relieve the pain and stop the venom spreading.”
Was there a swarm of jellyfish in the Manly area?
“There’s often bluebottles along the coast this time of year,” he affirmed, “but Manly is more vulnerable than, say, Freshwater, due to the width of the beach and the fact it faces directly towards the Pacific Ocean. Bluebottles are carried by the wind and if that wind blows onto the beach then we’re going to experience people getting stung.”
Treatment for stings
According to Australian Family Physician: “The bluebottle (Physalia spp.) or Portuguese man o’ war is not a true jellyfish, but a colony of individual organisms. There are around 10,000 cases of bluebottle stings on the east coast of Australia each year.
“A sting from a bluebottle causes an immediate sharp pain and acute inflammatory skin reaction. The pain is worsened if the tentacles are moved or the area rubbed. The intense pain can last from minutes to many hours, and can be followed by a dull ache involving the joints.
“Any tentacles that remain stuck to the skin should be removed, either by using tweezers or by hand (while wearing gloves). The site of the sting should then be washed with seawater
Hot water immersion can be applied after initial treatment, but to be effective, heat needs to be applied as soon as possible after stinging. Apply hot, but not scalding, water (ideally at 42–45°C), or a heat pack for 30–90 minutes or until the pain resolves.”