Don’t Urinate on your Bluebottle Stings!

There’s a far better way of treating stings.

Have you ever been stung by a bluebottle or a jellyfish?

Turns out you don’t need to urinate on your stings. We’ve all been misinformed. Bad news for anyone who has, it probably made the sting worse.

New research has revealed that the best cure for a bluebottle sting is simply applying vinegar and then heat. The current protocol for the bluebottle or physalia utriculus is to apply salt water, scrape off the tentacles and then add ice. Apparently, just like the urine, this is the worst thing you can do.

Scraping away tentacles adds more pressure to the area, increasing the stinging firing capsules, so more venom is pumped into the skin. The salt water will make the sting much larger and adding ice instead of hot water will make the pain for the victim even worse.

Portuguese Man o’ WarImage: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers found that the best treatment for those nasty bluebottle stings is the same treatment recommended for all other jellyfish stings, which is splashing vinegar on the sting (not pee). They’ve suggested that heat pressure on the sting for 45 minutes will deactivate the injected venom.

So why have we been treating stings incorrectly for so long?

Bluebottles look like jellyfish, but they aren’t. They’re called zooids; a cluster or colony of four kinds of highly modified individuals that all depend on each other for survival. The top of the bluebottle or the ‘float’ is a single individual and supports the rest of the group. The tentacles are polyps; they’re concerned with capturing and detecting food and reproduction is carried out by the gonozooids, the other polyp.

Before the study, researchers believed that treatment for a bluebottle sting was different to that of a normal jellyfish sting. After analysis, researchers from Hawaii and Ireland found that urine, lemon juice, salt water and similar old wives remedies were not an effective treatment for any zooid or jellyfish sting. Angel Yanagihara, the senior researcher and author explains:

Without solid science to back up medical practices, we have ended up with conflicting official recommendations around the world, leading to confusion and, in many cases, practices that actually worsen stings or even cost lives.

More than 10,000 people report being stung by bluebottles in Australia every year, and up to 30,000 reports in peak years. 

So next time you go for a swim and get stung by a blue bottle, don’t urinate on yourself.

Splash yourself with vinegar and apply heat.

Header: shutterstock

Related Articles

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit