How To Treat Bluebottle Stings – Sydney’s Most Annoying Sea Creatures!

Yes, these bluebottle stings were as painful as they look. I have had a few and have learned over the years the best way to treat a bluebottle sting. Here follow my top tips.

Bluebottles are commonly found on Sydney beaches, and indeed, around all of Australia. The official name for these marine maniacs is physalia utriculus. But I much prefer the name Pacific man o’ war.

Blue bottle text

NB People often spell the name blue bottle, and might be searching for how to treat blue bottle stings. But the name is just one word, bluebottle.

bluebottle stings on legs Sydney

The bluebottles are related to the Portugese man-o-war which I heard about a lot as a child. That one is the Physalia physalis and is found in the Atlantic ocean. As kids, we used to believe that if you were stung by one, you were a goner.

Not true at all!

Luckily for me, most bluebottle stings are not too serious, though they can be very painful. (But there are rare exceptions – see below.)

bluebottle stings on thigh Sydney
bluebottles sign on beach
You’ll see this sign up at Sydney beaches when there are bluebottles around. Thanks Carolyn from Desire Empire for this lovely photo.

These nasty stings that I got last summer were ENTIRELY my own fault. I saw lots of bluebottles washed up on the beach, so I knew that If I swam I’d be asking for a sting.  But I just couldn’t resist the lure of an ocean swim.

These stings really were sore at the time, but I just showered and then they weren’t too bed and didn’t itch TOO much. Most bluebottle stings will be in long welts like mine, caused by the trailing long tentacles.

Treating Bluebottle Stings

Modern treatments for bluebottle stings around our Sydney beaches do not involve papaya, vinegar or urine.

Rinse the stung area with seawater, it’s fine to pick tentacles off with the fingers.

Rinse with warm to comfortably hot water, or soak if that’s possible.

If the person stung is a child, or has asthma or allergies it may be adviasable to visit a doctor as rare cases of severe breathing difficulties have occurred.

If any swelling occurs around stings to the face or throat, call an ambulance immediately.

Bluebottles are common on Sydney beaches in summer. There are sometimes lots of them in the sea and washed up on the beaches, brought by north east winds and on warmer currents. But most summer days, there are none around and you do not run the risk of being stung.

Have you survived a sting from one of these savage jellyfish?

Can you share a top tip?

Happy swimming

I’ve also been bitten by leeches and stung by sea lice, see those posts for tips on prevention and what to do if not prevented.

You can read loads of fun facts about Australia on this post.

What’s next, I wonder…. err…..

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  1. says: Robyn (Mrs D)

    Ouchy!!! That sting looks horrible. I’ve been stung a few times too and it’s not nice at all. Last summer my little Hollie got stung on her bottom – what a drama that was!!

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Poor Hollie! My kids haven’t been stung yet, I can’t imagine the volume their yells would reach though… must pay good care this summer.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      I’ll be doing that next year! I used to have a stretchy lycra suit for when I went diving in stingery waters… where’s that gone to> Haven’t seen it for about 15 years but one of those would be handy some days.

  2. says: Hotly Spiced

    Yes, these are the curse of the beaches. I’ve been stung and it’s very painful. My poor Alfie had a shocking sting a few years ago. I did the surf lifesaving course a few years ago and they said the best treatment was to stand in the shower and put hot water on the sting as hot as you can tolerate and stay under the hot water for as long as possible. The hot water will dilate your veins and spread the sting through your blood stream dispersing the sting. That is apparently all you can do – after that it’s just a matter of time healing all wounds xx

  3. says: Bonny

    Blue bottle stings are horrid! I was stung by a big one, or possibly several at once. As soon as I felt the sudden pain across my back I flailed around in panic and was lashed all over by stings and ended up with blue tentacles stuck to me on my arms and legs and wrapped around my neck. I ended up with swollen lymph nodes, aching muscles and fainting. Luckily the hot water really does work, after I’d had a very hot shower for about 10 minutes most of the pain and other symptoms were gone.

  4. says: Joshua de Smuszko

    I’m 14 years old and I just got stung yesterday on the left arm and on my lips. It’s the most worst feeling, I ran to the life guards at wollongong city beach and that had nothing to treat my stings. I ended up goin under the shower (which happend to be cold) for 10-15 mins and that did nothing I ended up lying down in my town in the sun to see if the sun could calm it down and after 40-60 mins it was ok but it was slightly sting but it wasn’t hurting.

    1. says: Seana Smith

      It’s So painful isn’t it? Sorry to hear of your stings and glad the pain didn’t last too long, though I bet it felt long at the time. I haven’t had a bluebottle sting for ages but I was stung by sea lice last week and the stings are STILL itchy!

  5. says: Seb Rodas

    I was swimming in the beach and got stung across the stomach and got a massive mark and huge rash, the rash and the sting still haven’t gone away but the hot water got rid of the pain strait away

  6. says: Billie

    Haha, I got stung two days ago on my back for the first time (there were those signs on the beach and bluebottles everywhere on the sand, stupid I know) and I completely panicked, swore (accidentally, with my dad right next to me) and flicked it off my back. Unfortunately it happened to land on my dad!! The tentacles got stuck in his boardies and now he has a massive sting in his back!!! So I went up to the SLSC and rinsed my fingers with hot water for about 10 minutes which helped a LOT. But now my back and especially my fingers are really itchy! Do you have any tips on how to make it less itchy??? Thanks!!!

    1. says: Seana Smith

      Hello, you could visit the chemist to ask for some cortisone cream. Or ice packs can be really helpful too.

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