One of the most venomous jellyfish in the world, the Irukandji, has reached Moreton Bay, stinging a 10 year old boy and his mother on new year’s eve 2014 at Welling Point. (Full story at brisbanetimes.com.au)

Normally unique to tropical North Queensland, Irukandji is the name for a small group of various Box jellyfish species whose venom causes Irukandji Syndrome, which can lead to heart failure, pulmonary oedema or hypertensive stroke.

Being around the size of a sugar cube and translucent in appearance, it’s pointless to “be on the look out” for Irukandji jellyfish, but knowing the signs of Irukandji Syndrome and applying simple first aid helped save this boy, his mother and will likely make the difference if someone you know is stung.

By GondwanaGirl 04:29, 6 January 2009 (UTC) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By GondwanaGirl 04:29, 6 January 2009 (UTC) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

How to recognise an Irukandji jellyfish sting

Unlike other jellyfish stings, the Irukandji’s four tentacles are usually not seen on the victim and a minor red mark may be the only early sign.

Within 5 to 40 minutes, Irukandji Syndrome begins and may continue for many hours, even weeks, with severe cramp-like pain, nausea and vomiting, difficulty breathing, sweating, restlessness and a feeling of “impending doom”.

Most beaches in North Qld have vinegar available for jellyfish sting emergencies.

Most beaches in North Qld have vinegar available for jellyfish sting emergencies.

How to treat Irukandji Syndrome

Remaining calm and acting promptly with simple first aid can make all the difference to a victim of the irukandji jellyfish.

  1. If safe to do so, remove the person from water and restrain if necessary
  2. Call 000 for an ambulance
  3. If person is unresponsive and not breathing, start CPR immediately.
  4. Liberally douse stung area with vinegar for 30 seconds, then remove tentacles with fingertips or forceps (if no vinegar use sea water, not fresh water).
  5. For pain relief, apply ice for up to 20 mins.

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General first aid for jellyfish in non-tropical waters

This is the first reported case of Irukandji jellyfish this far south and the standard treatment for jellyfish in non-tropical waters differs from the steps above. If you or someone you know is stung by a jellyfish in South East Queensland waters, it’s safe to assume the sting is non-life threatening unless symptoms worsen quickly.

If you’re swimming at a patrolled beach, the Surf Life Savers will have the equipment and experience to respond to any stings appropriately.

If you’re not at a patrolled beach, follow these first aid steps for non-tropical jellyfish stings:

  1. Rest and reassure the person
  2. Pick tentacles off with fingers and rinse area with seawater (do not rub stung area)
  3. For pain relief, you can apply ice or rinse stung area with hot water for 20mins
  4. If pain persists or if sting covers more than half a limb call 000 and seek help from lifesavers if available

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To learn more simple but potentially life-saving skills and know-how, why not attend our nationally-recognised first aid course now running regularly in North Lakes, Brisbane.