Chironex, aka Box Jellyfish. Appearance: box shaped with 4 corners, 25-30cms diameter. Up to 15 ribbon-like tentacles growing from 4 corners. Tentacles may extend up to 3 metres. Symptoms: Severe burning skin pain; sting marks are like whip and appear as burn marks on skin. Adherent tentacles are often present. Victim may stop breathing. Treatment: Dial 000 and send someone to get help. Provide emergency care, CPR if necessary. Douse stings with vinegar. Seek medical aid.
Irukandji. Appearance: small box shape, 12mms diameter, 1 tentacle in each corner from a few cms to 1 metre long. Transparent and usually not seen. Symptoms: Initially mild and difficult to see, maybe goose bumps and localized sweating. Later severe back ache, muscle cramps, nausea, feeling of dread 20-30 minutes after sting. Treatment: as Box Jelly above.
Australian Fast Bowlers. Appearance: humanoid but bigger and with powerful tentacles on upper section. Difficult to spot due to motion blur. Symptoms: sharp pains in the leg, arm, chest and any unprotected area, with swelling, sweating and nausea. Later severe back ache, muscle cramps, depression, feeling of dread. Treatment: a bottle of Scottish whisky, a packet of ibuprofen, retirement and a trip home as fast as possible.
Morbakka, aka Tomoya, Fire Jelly, Moreton Bay Stinger. Appearance: Large ‘box’ shaped jellyfish, bell up to 16cm high, 14cm wide. 1 thick tentacle in each corner, up to 1 metre long. Symptoms: Burning, itching pain. Wide, raised pink welts with surrounding bright red skin. Occasionally ‘Irukandji’-like symptoms. Treatment: Douse entire sting with 2 litres of vinegar whether tentacles are visible or not. Apply ice pack after 10 minutes, reapply later if necessary.
Cyanea, aka Hairjelly, Snotty. Appearance: Large flat bell 4-30cms in diameter. Large mop of hair-like tentacles underneath, 5-50cms long. Bell top may be white and/or have yellow/brown colour underneath. Symptoms: Minor skin burning with multiple raised welts. Treatment: Douse with vinegar whether tedntacles are visible or not. Apply ice pack after 10 minutes and reapply later if skin pain persists.
Catostylus, aka Blubber. Appearance: Mushroom-shaped bell 5-30cms in diameter. No tentacles, but 8 frills hanging underneath. Symptoms: Minor skin burning with red blotchy rash. Treatment: as Cyanea, above.
Physalia, aka Blue-bottle, Portuguese man-o-war. Appearance: Air-filled sack up to 8cm long with single long tentacle up to 1 metre and numerous shorter tentacles. Symptoms: Burning skin pain, single raised white welt with ‘beading’ effect, occasional breathing difficulty. Treatment: as Cyanea, above.
n. b. These stingers are not found commonly, except perhaps for the last and least troublesome, the Blue-bottle. Australian authorities are safety-conscious and well-organized so on most public beaches if there is danger there will be warning notices and/or stinger nets.
Snorkel and dive tours will supply stinger suits when appropriate.
Don’t be tempted to show you’ve got cojones by swimming without protection in a danger zone, you could be in for a painful surprise that would really blow your cool.