Coast KZN

16 Mar 2021

Bluebottles ‘make waves’ for beach goers – here’s how to tell if you’re allergic

Danica Hansen (Berea mail) Picture: Saambr shared this photo on their Facebook Page.

As thousands of bluebottles wash up on the Durban coastline, a local lifesaving club has shared some valuable information on how to spot an allergic reaction caused by a sting. Meanwhile, the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) shares fun facts about these fascinating sea creatures that visit the Durban shores with the north-easterly winds.

Shelerne Moodley of Pirates Lifesaving Club said it’s important to seek medical advice if a beachgoer has an allergic reaction to a sting.

“If one is allergic to bee stings, it is common that they are also allergic to bluebottle stings. Signs of allergic reaction are: rashes, difficult breathing and swelling glands,” he said.

For SAAMBR,  spokesperson Ann Kunz staying out of the water is the best way to avoid a reaction.

“Be careful if you are stung as some people can have allergic reactions to the stinging cells. A cloth soaked in hot water can help relieve the pain. It’s best to stay away from them and don’t swim when there are many in the water,” she said.

Moodley encouraged young children to stay out of the water.

“Stings can be very painful to them,” he added.

If a beachgoer does get stung, lifeguards are ready to help, added Moodley.

“If you get stung, lifeguards are more than willing to assist you. If you are alone, you need to take the tentacles off your body, you can use your fingers as you cannot get stung on your palms where the skin is thicker. Flush the body part with fresh water, then apply either anti sting cream, juice from aloe plants or vinegar. You can also apply ice for swelling,” he said.

Some Blue Bottles washed up along uShaka Beach yesterday. PHOTO: Submitted.

Kunz said thousands of bluebottles have washed up on Durban shores with the recent north-easterly winds.

“Out in the ocean, bluebottles feed on tiny fish and other floating animals that they immobilise with their stinging cells. Bluebottles are related to corals, anemones and jellyfish. Watch out when you are on the beach as the stinging cells in their tentacles can still sting,” she said.

Bluebottles function in a similar way to sail boats as they catch the wind, said Kunz.

“The bluebottle is a fascinating colony of animals living together, each performing a specific function. The float – the bag-like part filled with a special gas mixture – is used as a sail for movement and the animal can adjust the shape and position of the float depending on the wind. The tentacles are armed with stinging cells and can reach many metres in length,” she said.