Now that summer is here, so is the danger of getting unwelcome attention from some of the creatures that live in the sea. Sea lice and jellyfish (such as bluebottles and box jellyfish) can turn a day at the beach into a tearfest in the sand dunes in minutes!
If you are unfortunate enough to come into contact with one of these nasty cretins, you will feel a hot sharp stinging sensation followed by a reddening and swelling of the area that has been attacked.
If you do get stung, try to stay calm and head straight for shore. Once you are on land, do not apply freshwater or rub the affected area. Rather, pour seawater over the wound and remove any large jellyfish fragments from the skin using tweezers or gloved hands. Flush the wound with vinegar to reduce pain. In some cases shaving cream can be applied to remove bits of jelly from the skin.
Of course these are just the initial first-aid steps. You should always consult a doctor afterwards.
The big threat is the box jellyfish or sea wasp. Lethal to human beings, this sea creature is found in shallow water along the coastline of northern Australia and in the Indo-Pacific region during the summer months.
If someone is stung, they may experience nausea, confusion and agitation, followed by unconsciousness. They may also suffer from respiratory failure and can eventually die. The scary part is that the tentacles of a box jellyfish grow up to two metres in length, so they can sting from afar without you even being aware of their presence.
The most important thing to do if someone has been stung is to get them to a doctor fast! If you have vinegar handy, douse the stinging tentacles to render them neutral and remove them using tweezers or gloves. But don’t dillydally, as their life really is in danger.
Thankfully, sea lice aren’t nearly as life threatening. These small but highly annoying creatures live on the surface of sand in shallow water and eat dead fish. But they can pack a very itchy and uncomfortable bite
If you do get stung, be sure to wash the area with freshwater before applying calamine lotion or aloe vera. Sea lice are relatively harmless, so there’s no need to see a doctor unless the affected area becomes infected.
And don’t forget these simple rules when you’re out in the surf…
Swim only between the flags at protected beaches and where there are lifeguards on patrol. Obey the lifeguards. Always wear protective clothing and/or sunscreen. Watch where you swim and whatever you do, don’t dive head first into water!