Moon jellyfish at Airforce Beach in Evans Head.
Moon jellyfish at Airforce Beach in Evans Head. Susanna Freymark

What's been stinging us at our beaches?

WE are all aware of how dangerous sharks in the surf can be, but with nets and drones to protect us from them, what other nasties lurk in the water that pose a risk to the unwary swimmer?

According to figures just released by NSW Ambulance, there were a few things causing problems for North Coast beach-goers.

NSW Ambulance data shows that between September 1, 2013, and December 31, 2016, paramedics attended 325 incidents across NSW involving patients injured by marine life. (Figures representing calls to NSW Ambulance Triple Zero (000) ).

Of the 169 blue bottle stings, the North Coast had the greatest number recorded, with 52 cases, followed by north Sydney with 43 and the Illawarra with 26.

There were 116 cases involving stingrays across NSW, - the North Coast recorded 26 cases, second to the south Sydney area with 29 cases.

Of the 14 cases in NSW involving jellyfish, eight were recorded in the North Coast sector, and one of the six octopus incidents was recorded here.

At the extreme end, paramedics were called to 20 incidents in NSW involving sharks, ranging from minor injuries to fatalities. Eleven incidents occurred on the North Coast followed by the Illawarra with four.

The figures show that ocean stings peak in January and February.

Yesterday, The Northern Star reported Ballina was experiencing an invasion of bluebottles.

NSW Ambulance Paramedic Matt Burke said blue bottles were a part of summer, brought in to beaches by north-east winds. He said that while a blue bottle sting could be perceived as relatively minor, such incidents should not be dismissed outright.

"Each individual and each scenario is different. Blue bottle stings can induce a potential anaphylactic or severe reaction in some people, particularly if there is any immune compromise.

"But it doesn't have to be only anaphylaxis. If you get a series of stings or if you get stung around the airway, you can get some swelling and some possible airway compromise."

He advised that due to the variety of effects that some of these bites and stings may have, it is important to remove the affected person from the water or potential danger where possible.

"Basic first aid and life support measures should be applied where appropriate and Triple Zero (000) contacted."

Mr Burke said the best treatment for blue bottle stings and sting rays was hot water.

"The water must be as hot as you can handle. The heat kills the protein in the sting of marine animals," he said.

Paramedics further advise the following first aid tips:

Bluebottles/non-tropical jellyfish:

. Rinse area with seawater to remove any remaining stings. If possible, place in hot water, no hotter than the patient can comfortably tolerate.

Stingrays, barbed marine creatures:

. If possible, place in hot water, no hotter than the patient can comfortably tolerate;

. Control any bleeding

. If the barb is embedded, do not remove it.

Blue-ringed octopus:

. Treat the same as a snake bite by applying a pressure immobilisation bandage.

Limb injuries:

. Partially severed limb - Control any bleeding by applying direct pressure. Protect the limb as much as possible from dirt and further damage.

. Severed limb - keep the severed part dry, wrapped and cold. If possible, place the part in a dry, sealed plastic bag and then place within another bag filled with cool water. Do not place part in direct contact with water as this will damage the tissue. Do not place the part in direct contact with ice as freezing kills the tissue.

Bleeding:

. Control bleeding by applying direct pressure.



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