Bluebottles inhabit waters throughout Australia and are often found in swarms. The sting causes immediate pain, usually lasting about 30 minutes, with typical oval-shaped blanched wheals and surrounding redness of the skin. To treat a sting:
1- Pick off any adherent tentacles with fingers (this has been shown not to be harmful to the rescuer). Don’t rub the stung area.
2- Rinse stung area well with seawater to remove invisible stinging cells.
3- Place the casualty’s stung area in hot water (no hotter than the rescuer can comfortably tolerate). If possible, soak for 10-20 minutes.
4- If local pain is unrelieved by heat, or if hot water is not available, apply a cold pack or wrapped ice for pain relief.
For stings that cover a particularly large area, or across the throat and face, call triple zero (in Australia).
References: “Australian First Aid” book by St John Ambulance Australia; museum.wa.gov.au; australianmuseum.com.au; and australiangeographic.com.au.