Box jellyfish in Territory coastal waters


As temperatures and humidity rise in the Top End, the Public Health Unit is reminding Territorians and visitors to be aware of increasing numbers of box jellyfish – or ‘stingers’ – in coastal waters.

Stinger season starts officially on 1 October and continues until 31 May, however box jellyfish stings have been recorded historically in every month of the year.

“If you spend time in or on the water in the Top End you must take appropriate steps to avoid being stung,” said Meredith Neilson, from the Public Health Unit.

An adult box jellyfish is hard to see and can have 40 or more tentacles, each up to two metres in length and loaded with venom that causes excruciating pain and which can attack the heart and even cause death.

Children are at greatest risk as the venom injected during a sting has a greater impact.

Each year about 40 people present to Top End health facilities as a result of stingers. People launching boats or other water craft should take extra care.

“Stingers prefer calm conditions so are often at the water’s edge, as well as in tidal creeks and around boat ramps,” said Ms Neilson.

“The best advice is to stay out of the sea but if you have to get in the water, cover up with a stinger suit or a shirt and long trousers.”

If someone does get stung:

  • Call for help (call 000)
  • Douse the area with plenty of vinegar
  • If any tentacles are on the skin you can pull them off (the skin on your fingers is thicker however minor stings may occur)
  • In extreme cases you may have to perform CPR.

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