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Dangerous and Deadly Jellyfish of Australia

Updated on December 23, 2014

Beware! Danger in the Water

Lots of people are afraid of sharks in Australian waters, although the prospect of being attacked by a shark is only slightly more probable than the chances of a meteorite falling on your head.

It's unlikely you will be taken by a crocodile either. Sydney Funnel Web Spiders and Redback Spiders have caused human deaths, but not since anti-venoms were made available in 1981. And if you're lucky enough to see a snake - it's only a friendly Aussie saying G'day, just don't try to pick it up

But you can, very easily, be fatally stung by a harmless looking jellyfish.

Danger on unspoiled beaches

Australia has glorious beaches. There are beautiful areas of seeming tranquility, especially on the long stretches of golden sands with not a trace of humans to be seen, a sight which always entices the unwary traveler.

But beware! There's danger in the water

Three Safety Rules to Follow

  • 1. Read the Signs
  • 2. Never swim at night, and never swim alone
  • 3. Have a bottle of vinegar close by
If you're planning to 'go bush' there are plenty of reserves and guided tours to take you around safely.

If someone is stung

Call for Help - Phone 000

Yell for a lifeguard

Treat the victim - CPR

Treat the Sting - flood with vinegar

Box Jellyfish

One of the most lethal creatures in the world

One of the most lethal creatures found in the world is the box jellyfish. It's certainly the the most venomous of marine animals and kills more people than stonefish, sharks and crocodiles combined.

These little blobs of jelly may look harmless enough, but they can shoot off poison-tipped darts before you have time to blink.

They can kill a child instantly and they will give you a fatal heart attack.

These blobby creatures are active, visual hunters seeking prey all year round, but particularly from October to June. Their extremely sophisticated eyes can see pretty much across the entire light spectrum and their vision is better than most birds. They will see you before you see them.

Box Jellyfish - Video - Close Up and Personal

The Consequences of a Sting

Stings from a box jellyfish have these very severe consequences

  • cardiotoxic - effect on the heart
  • neurotoxic - damage to the nerves
  • dermatonecrotic - effect on the skin

What does that mean?

Firstly, you will most likely suffer cardiac arrest within minutes. Three metres of tentacles touching your skin is quite enough to be fatal.

Even if your heart hasn't stopped in the brief moments after being stung, then the pain is so excruciating and overwhelming that you immediately go into shock. The result is fatal if you're swimming alone. The chances of being stung and making it back to shore are nearly impossible.

The tentacles stick tightly to the skin and continue to release venom if not treated correctly and rapidly, compounding all the other horrors of the sting. Any attempt at removal of the tentacles while they are still active will worsen the sting and lead to greater injuries.

Severe stings lead to necrosis of the affected tissue, your skin is literally eaten away. The very few lucky survivors display deep and dreadful scars.

The severity of a sting depends on the size of the box jellyfish, the amount of tentacles involved, and the individual victim. Children are obviously more vulnerable, but older people and anyone who is not in prime physical condition has little hope.

What to do if someone is stung

Victims of the box jellyfish quickly go into cardiac arrest. CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) takes priority over everything else.

Get someone to call an ambulance! Dial 000

The victim will be in an enormous amount of pain, quite possibly hysterical. Some may be uncontrollable. The tentacles will still be on the victim, looking like worms, or ribbons, the sting marks will look like whip-marks, swollen and red. Within a few minutes the marks will go frosty white as the skin dies.

Don't pull the tentacles off!!

Pour ordinary vinegar over the tentacles for at least 30 seconds. Only then can they be removed, otherwise you will just cause more venom to be released.

Many beaches where box jellyfish are present will have a bottle of vinegar stored on the beach next to the warning signs.

Ordinary domestic vinegar has saved scores of lives. It's the only remedy for box jellyfish sting

Irukandji Syndrome

Yes, Marine Stingers are Dangerous!

Even small, almost invisible, box jellyfish are dangerous.

Irukandji Syndrome is a condition caused by the sting of the Irukandji, a very small box jellyfish. There is no anti-venom.

If quickly and properly treated a single sting is normally not fatal, but at least two people have died from Irukandji sting.

As the jellyfish is very small, and as the venom is only injected through the tips of the tentacles instead of the entire lengths, the sting may barely be noticed and can feel like little more than a mosquito bite.

The basic symptoms develop within 20 to 30 minutes after being stung. They include severe low back pain; excruciating muscle cramps in arms, legs, belly and chest; sweating, nausea, anxiety, restlessness, vomiting, and headache.

Next to develop is severe hypertension, or high blood pressure, and at least one person died from brain haemorrhage within 30 hours after being stung.

Once again, flush the affected skin with vinegar.

What did you think would be dangerous?

What did you imagine to be the most dangerous creature on Australian beaches?

See results

I hope you picked up some safety rules for Australian beaches and know how to protect yourself from box jellyfish sting!

All comments are appreciated.

Give the Box Jellyfish a Bite

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      I am so glad that we don't have to worry about these creatures here in Canada. Australia really does have a wide variety of animals there that would love to take a nip at the local folk.

    • geosum profile image

      geosum 4 years ago

      I was hoping to take a trip to Australia. Maybe I should stay out of the water.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Never knew that these jellos could be fatal! I guess people should swim with a bottle of vinegar rather than a bottle of wine! :)

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 6 years ago

      Absolutely amazing, death in 180 seconds...

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 7 years ago from Idaho

      Great information about these beautiful but deadly little animals! Blessed!

    • Nowran profile image

      Nowran 7 years ago

      Hey It's important people know about these nasty little creatures. Thanks for the lens.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 7 years ago

      Returned again to say this lens is featured in the upcoming lens, My Time as a Squid Angel :)

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 7 years ago

      Returned to Bless this lens :)

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 7 years ago

      Great advice here

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I've seen a few wildlife tv specials about jellyfish, and they sure are nasty, would never want to meet one! Nice lens Susan!

    • TheGoodSource101 profile image

      TheGoodSource101 7 years ago

      Jelly's are NO fun for surfers. They are awesome looking creatures.

    • SidneyMorgan LM profile image

      SidneyMorgan LM 7 years ago

      Great detail and I have to say a great lens for those who are planning to visit and need to realize a rather "unusual" danger that natives are at least aware of. However, you facts for times and locations is so useful. Great info and a good lens to warn all of us when and where to not be in the water!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Ah yes indeed ... do beware of the water for all those stinging jellyfish ... good thing there are no stinging jellyfish "outside" that water? Yes?

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      The jelly fish show up on our shores in August and September. I stay out of the water then. I'm not about to be stung.

      Thanks for Sharing


    • TopStyleTravel profile image

      TopStyleTravel 9 years ago

      Great information for travelers. While most have an uneventful vacation. It is best to be informed before we travel to an unknown destination, anywhere in the world.

    • profile image

      scss 9 years ago

      Love your work, another 5* lens!

      Helene Malmsio

    • Jobanjo profile image

      Jobanjo 9 years ago

      Scary stuff indeed. I did the East coast of Australia for a couple of months last year ... it was a roo that tried to kill me ... then the sand flies tried to finish me off!!! :) If I ever return I'll be avoiding these little fellas at all costs!

    • profile image

      coopd 9 years ago

      Great information! 5* I would love having your lens in my Nature Lovers group :)