For Australians living on the east coast, the possibility of being stung by a bluebottle is just a fact of life. But the methods for treating a sting vary wildly, including the idea you can just pee on it to alleviate the pain.
Bluebottles are a species of jellyfish that menace Australia’s eastern shoreline during summer. The curious stingers, which grow to around 15 centimetres, appear like little blue plastic bags with long tentacles.
When a human steps on one of those tentacles, they release a bunch of little spears that inject venom into the area. According to the Australian Museum, that venom is a mixture of phenols and proteins and is extremely painful to humans.
There are various ways to treat that pain but one method has persisted over the years — urinate on the site of pain.
I mean, even a Friends episode perpetuated the supposed treatment.
But despite the method persisting, the Australian Museum insists it does not work and can actually make the pain even worse.
“Our urine can either be acidic or alkaline, and when the latter, could make the sting worse by stimulating more stinging cells to be released,” the museum’s entry on the jellyfish reads.
“Freshwater should also not be applied to the sting for the same reason.”
So, like Monica in that Friends episode, you’re right to fully reject your friend’s thoughtful, but ultimately counter-intuitive, proposal to urinate on you.
If peeing doesn’t work, how do I treat a bluebottle sting?
Now you know that peeing thankfully does not work, how do you treat the pain? We’re happy to report it’s not nearly as foul.
As the Australian Museum explains, use saltwater to wash off or remove any tentacles. You could do that by digging a small hole close to the shore, filling it with seawater and then dunking your foot or sting area in it.
It’s also suggested you submerge the sting site in warm water, around 40 degrees Celsius, to help neutralise and kill off the venom’s proteins.
If the person who’s been stung is quite young or elderly, the sting is near the throat or if the symptoms continue despite treatment, it’s a good idea to call triple zero. There haven’t been any deaths in the Southern Hemisphere but a Northern Hemisphere relative has been known to cause human death.
- Find a place to rest with someone who can watch over you.
- Don’t rub the stung area.
- Wash off any remaining tentacles with saltwater. Rinsing the stung area well with seawater will remove any invisible stinging cells.
- Immerse the stung area in hot water at a temperature you can comfortably tolerate. Studies have shown that 40 degrees Celsius will produce relief after 10 minutes. The heat is important as it kills the protein in the venom.
- If the symptoms persist or for stings that cover a particularly large area, or across the throat & face call triple zero (in Australia).