Jellyfish stings

There are many different types of jellyfish in Aotearoa New Zealand. Most jellyfish stings are not serious. If treated straight away you are not likely to develop major symptoms.

Symptoms of jellyfish stings

Jellyfish stings can cause:

  • intense pain
  • itching
  • burning
  • a red, swollen mark.

Call your healthcare provider if you have been stung and have:

  • increasing numbness
  • difficulty breathing
  • signs of poisoning, including stomach pain, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting
  • signs of infection later, including increased pain, redness, swelling, red streaks leading away from the sting, heat, discharge of pus, fever, or chills
  • pain that is not controlled by self care
  • any new or worsening symptoms
  • a contaminated wound (a tetanus injection may be needed). 

Severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis

Some people have a severe allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis from jellyfish stings is rare.

Symptoms of either of these reactions include:

  • swelling around the lips and eyes
  • rapid development of a rash
  • shortness of breath or wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • severe dizziness or faints
  • hoarse voice
  • difficulty swallowing or throat tightness
  • signs of shock (pale skin, rapid pulse and fainting).
If you or someone you know have these symptoms, call 111 and ask for an ambulance.

How to treat jellyfish stings

If you or a whānau member has been stung by a jellyfish, get out of the water and follow these steps to treat the sting area. All jellyfish stings in Aotearoa New Zealand are treated the same way.

  1. Flush the stung area with sea water (or fresh water, if sea water is unavailable) to remove the tentacles.
  2. If tentacles are still attached use a dry towel to remove them. Wear gloves if you have some.
  3. Soak the stung area in heated tap water for 15 to 20 minutes. Have it as hot as the person can bear without causing skin burns, and no more than 45°C. A shower can be used for stings to the torso. You can repeat this for up to 2 hours after the injury. Make sure to limit this to 15 to 20 minutes at a time with breaks between to allow cooling of the skin.
  4. Take pain relief following hot water soaking.

Do not apply vinegar or methylated spirits as they can make the sting more painful.

For advice on first aid and treatment of stings call the National Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766

Be careful with medicines

Do not give aspirin, or products containing aspirin, to anyone 18 years or younger. There is a risk of a serious illness called Reye's syndrome. 

Do not take non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) with food or milk to prevent stomach irritation. Do not give NSAIDs to anyone with:

  • NSAID-induced asthma
  • an increased risk of bleeding, such as ulcer disease, a bleeding disorder
  • anyone taking blood thinners (anticoagulants)
  • following surgery, significant trauma, or major dental work
  • an allergy to NSAIDS. 

Types of jellyfish


The bluebottle has a burning sting. This is the jellyfish most commonly involved in stings in New Zealand waters.

Lion's-mane jellyfish

The lion’s-mane jellyfish is a stinging jellyfish. It can be found in colours from white to deep blue. It grows to almost 2 metres across. Its tentacles can be up to 5 metres long and are almost invisible.

Mauve stinger

The mauve stinger, which has only few stinging catch tentacles. It can grow to 40 cm across.