5 common ocean hazards to watch out for

Kinderling News & Features

The ocean is a beautiful place for our kids to explore, especially in an island country such as Australia. But we don’t need to tell you that our oceans are home to several venomous marine creatures. To help us through the summer, we ask Sarah Hunstead to take us through the most important ones.

1. Blue bottles

Most of us would have seen a blue bottle at some point. These blue blobs cause “immense earth-shattering pain,” Sarah says.

Before doing anything else, “wash the area in copious amounts of sea water first, to get the tentacles off. You may need to pick them off, so obviously if they’re still stinging and you’re picking them off, then you may end up with some stings on your fingers.”

Only after removing the tentacles can you start using fresh water.

“We know that hot water is the best treatment when it comes to blue bottle stings. The problem is that sometimes the pain can be so great that when the person goes to put their arm or whatever it is into the hot water, the pain is greater than the temperature they can feel, so they can end up with burns,” Sarah explains. “It’s really important that someone who’s not in pain is actually making sure the water is okay. It should be hot water, but not hot enough to burn the person.”

Immerse the stung body part for 10-20 minutes, then pull it out again. Repeat for up to two hours until the pain is relieved. Also give them pain relief such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.

Know that ice and urine (an old wives tale) do not work, and “vinegar is for tropical jellyfish stings, such as a box jellyfish or a iriganji.”

Seek medical help if;

  • the person is having an allergic or anaphylactic reaction to the sting.
  • it’s a circumferential sting (wrapping right around a limb) with swelling, as it can damage the limb
  • the sting is around the face or neck, because swelling can affect the airways and breathing.  
  • It’s an extensive sting affecting a child, resulting in uncontrollable pain

2. Blue-ringed octopuses

Sticking to the blues, these tiny, beautiful creatures live under rocks. But they do bite and inject lethal venom.

If someone is stung, Sarah says to administer the same first aid as you would for a snake or funnel web spider bite. This includes applying a pressure bandage, winding from the bite site all the way up the limb. It’s not to cut off circulation, but it slows the flow of the lymph, where the venom is.

Most importantly, get ready to perform CPR if the person stops breathing, in order to keep blood and oxygen circulating and buying time for emergency help.

3. Sea lice

“We tend to group sea lice as anything that can make us itchy or sting us a little bit,” Sarah notes. Sea lice can often actually be bits of tentacles or little parts of jellyfish.

Start treatment by washing it off from skin and clothing. It can be itchy and irritating, so a lot of people swear by Vitamin E cream on the area. Sarah thinks that depends person to person, and to use whatever works for you. If there’s a reaction with welts from sea lice, it might be a visit to chemist or your family doctor for antihistamine.

4. Cuts and mystery stings

Often when exploring rockpools and the beach, kids can step on something, resulting in a sting or cut without any clue about what hurt them!

“It’s about being aware of what could potentially be around,” Sarah advises. “If you’re in an area where there are cone shells for example, then watch them like a hawk for a little while.”

Listen to Sarah on Kinderling Conversation:

If you’re in an area where they’re more likely to be cut by a harmless sea snail, like a limpet, then you don’t need to worry so much.

“Once injury has occurred, have a look at the wound. See if there’s anything in there. Have a feel (which can be tricky when you have a screaming child in front of you),” is Sarah’s advice.

With the mystery around what it could be, always aim to treat what’s in front of you. If there’s blood, wash it and stop the bleeding. If it’s incredibly painful, try to look at what’s in the wound, head to the doctor and give pain relief if necessary.

If they’re having troubles breathing or they’re unconscious, always use CPR.

5. Drowning

Drowning is one of the biggest risks associated with any water.

Keep your little ones within arm’s reach at all time, and within eyesight for older kids.

If you’re at a new beach you’re not familiar with, sarah highly recommends chatting with the lifeguards, and listen to their wealth of knowledge. Always swim between the flags and pay attention to sections of the

Water safety, within arm’s reach when little or within eyesight when a bit older. Swim between the flags, chat to the lifeguards if you don’t know the beach. They’ll close sections of the beach when there are bluebottles, rips and other dangers, so pay close attention to their wealth of knowledge.