Irukandji Jellyfish Stings and Treatment


Irukandji Jellyfish Stings and Treatment.

Irukandji Jellyfish occur in tropical waters from Bundaberg, Agnes Water, central Queensland and follow a similar distribution to Chironex, northwards through Queensland, across the Northern Territory and then south to Exmouth, Western Australia. They occur in the summer months in Australia.

Researchers (Associate Professor Jamie Seymour and team) have however started to discover that the Irukandji Jellyfish is moving south and with recent reports indicate that stings have been reported as south as on the Fraser Coast.

What are Irukandji Jelly Fish ?

The Irukandji is a Box Jellyfish, and is the smallest of it kind known. Although they’re usually no more than 1 cubic centimetre in volume, they can be extremely poisonous.

What makes them deadly is that they can fire their stingers into their victim. If you get stung, you develop something called the Irukandji syndrome. If left untreated, this syndrome may cause the victim to go into cardiac arrest and die within 20 minutes.

Irukandji Jellyfish Stings and Treatment

Signs and Symptoms of a Sting.


  • Skin pain is generally immediate and varies in intensity from mild to very sever sharp or burning pain
  • Generalised muscle aches
  • Severe muscle cramps in the limbs, chest and abdomen

Symptoms and signs of severe stings:

  • Difficulty or cessation of breathing
  • Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
  • Severe Pain
  • Restlessness and irrational behaviour
  • Nausea and vomiting, headache
  • Physical collapse
  • Profused sweating, sometimes only in the sting area.
Irukandji Jellyfish Stings and Treatment
Irukandji Jellyfish Stings and Treatment

First Aid Treatment for Irukandji Box Jelly Fish Stings.

There is not one Nationwide recommendation according to the Australian Resus Council for the first aid of a jellyfish because of the differences between jellyfish around Australia.

As a first aider in most cases you will not be able to ID the type of jellyfish stings, for this reason there are a few standard treatments that should be followed.

Tropical Jellyfish Treatment:

In the tropics due to the risk (even if small) that the victim has been stung by a potentially lethal jellyfish, the priority  be to preserve life.

  • Think about your own exposure and dangers.
  • Remove victim from the water and restrain if necessary
  • Call 000 from any landline or 112 from mobile phone, report a possible Irukandji Sting. Seek help from a lifeguard if available.
  • if breathing is difficult help maintain the air way by opening the air way and putting the victim in the recovery position (side) or if breathing is not present, open airway and start CPR
  • Douse the sting site with copious amounts of vinegar (or seawater if no vinegar) until medical help arrives. Picking off any tentacles.
  • Apply ice if needed in a dry plastic bag analgesia (pain relief)  Do not allow or apply fresh water to the sting site because it may cause discharge of the undischarged nematocysts (tentacles).
  • Treat for shock

Non Tropical Jellyfish Stings Treatment

  • Remove from water
  • Keep the victim at rest, reassure and keep under constant observation
  • Do not allow rubbing of the sting site
  • Pick off any tentacles (this is not dangerous to the rescuer) and rinse with seawater to remove invisible nematocysts
  • If local pain is not relieved by heat, or if hot water is not available, apply a cold pack or ice in a dry plastic bag.
  • If pain will not subside or gets worse call 000 and seek assistance from lifeguards
  • If sting is in a sensitive area eg the eyes call 000 and seek assistance from lifeguards
  • If the sting is large (half of a limb or more) call 000 and seek assistance from lifeguards

For further advise concerning any marine envenomation contact the Australian Venom Research Unit 1300 760 451 or the Poisons Hotline 13 11 26.

Reference : Australian Resuscitation Council Guideline 9.4.5 Envenomation – Jellyfish Stings.


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