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Health Information > Good Health in Tropical North Queensland

Marine Stingers (Jellyfish)

The Tropical North Queensland waters off Australia contain many creatures, including some dangerous jellyfish, known commonly as marine stingers. They are easily avoided provided correct precaution is taken; however if stung, they can cause mild to severe discomfort, and may potentially be lethal.

Marine “stinger season” generally runs from November through to May/June. During this period, the dangerous jellyfish are of particular concern.

Marine stingers include the most common Box Jellyfish (Chironex) and Irukandji, however, there are also several other stingers including the Bluebottle (Physalia), Hair Jelly (Cyanea), Jimble (Carybdea), Fire Jelly (Morbakka) and Little Mauvre Stinger (Pelagia).

Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri)

Picture of a Box Jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri)Box Jellyfish are found in the shallow, tropical waters of North Queensland, and all over the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The predominant recorded stings from the Box Jellyfish are along coastal areas.

Chironex are large (almost transparent) jellyfish with a “box-shaped” bell (with 4 corners) up to 30cm in diameter. They can have up to 15 “ribbon-like” tentacles arising from each of the corners (up to 60 tentacles) 10cm (contracted) to 3m (extended) in length.

Severe stings may cause victim to stop breathing or their heart to stop, potentially resulting in death.



 1  Call for help  Dial 000 for an Ambulance
 2  Emergency care  Administer CPR if needed
 3  Treat the sting  Pour vinegar onto sting
 4  Seek medical aid  Transport to hospital

Go to Toptop of page


Picture of irukandji jellyfishIrukandji are a group of jellyfish know to cause Irukandji Syndrome. They are found in the tropical waters of Northern Queensland, and all over Northern Territory and Western Australia. They have occasionally been reported in sub-tropical and temperate waters. Some can be found coastally, on reefs and islands, and at times can occur close to shore.

Irukandji jellyfish are very small transparent jellyfish with a “box-shaped” bell (4 corners) ranging from 1-2cm and up to 10cm in diameter (depending on the species). They only have 1 thin tentacle arising from each of the corners (4 tentacles).

Initially the sting of the Irukandji is just felt as a minor skin sting. This is followed by severe generalized muscular pain, anxious behavior, headaches, vomiting and sweating, from 5 and up to 40 minutes post initial contact. The sting from some species can cause very high blood pressure or affect the heart, potentially resulting in death. These symptoms are referred to as Irukandji Syndrome.




 1  Call for help  Dial 000 for an Ambulance
 2  Emergency care  Oxygen should be applied.
 Administer CPR if needed
 3  Treat the sting  Pour vinegar onto sting
 4  Seek medical aid  Transport to hospital

Go to Toptop of page



In order to prevent getting stung by the marine stingers take the following precautions and ensure your day at the beach is enjoyable:

  • ALWAYS swim at patrolled beaches between the red and yellow flags.
  • ONLY SWIM in stinger nets if they are provided. They afford a high degree of protection.
  • However, they are not stinger “proof”  – Irukandji are small enough to get through the net. In order to avoid a sting, check with the patrolling lifesaver/lifeguard.
  • DO NOT interfere with the stinger nets or sit on the floating pontoons.

  • IT IS RECOMMENDED that a full-body lycra wet/stinger suit (or equivalent) be worn to provide a good measure of protection against marine stings.

  • SLOWLY enter the water – marine stingers will often move away given the time and opportunity.

  •  LOOK for and obey safety signs.

  • DO NOT enter the water when beaches are closed.

  • ASK a lifesaver/lifeguard for help and advice if you need it.

  • DO NOT touch marine stingers washed up on the beach, they can still sting you!

  • IF you are taking out your own boat, take a  bottle of household vinegar with you to treat potential stings and make sure you can contact medical aid if required.
  • IF in doubt of Irukandji sting, treat as Irukandji and seek medical aid (Better safe than sorry!)



Other Marine Stingers

Marine Stingers: This website provides comprehensive advice and information about marine stingers in the tropical waters of north Queensland. It is an initiative of the tropical Australian stinger research unit in James Cook University.


Other Useful Links

Surf Life Saving Australia and Surf Life Saving Queensland. These websites includes a wide range of information on services, products and education programs from the Surf Life Saving Association.


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Picture showing a stinger net at a public beach

Picture of a lifeguard checking water for stingers

A picture of a hazardous marine creatures sign

Picture of vinegar being poured over stung area

Photographs courtesy of Surf Life Saving Queensland. Irukandji photo courtesy of Jamie Seymour.

Last Updated: 12 August 2014
Last Reviewed: 15 July 2011