The Real Story of a Sting

While fatalities - we're told - tell us about the severity and scale of a problem, grabbing the headlines with the shocking statistics of war, road, disaster, disease, massacre; those figures can remove us from the awful lingering reality of the fact that for every death there is more often than not a great number of injuries.

While lives are tragically ended, other victims are forced to continue their life suffering the effects of the incident with painful wounds, life-altering disability, physical hardship and mental scars.
In terms of numbers - as has been discussed in this blog (Numbers Aren't Everything) - deaths from jellyfish are thankfully not up there. Not even close. This does not make it any less a problem for those affected. You need look no further than the above image to see that a jellyfish sting is serious.

The numbers that give further meaning to this particular sting are the 91 stitches in 2 surgeries, the 6 weeks of hospital treatment, the endless days of pain, the months of worry, the years of healing.

The story of this sting which occurred on the beach at Cha-Am, Thailand is typical insofar as the unsuspecting victim suffered intense pain and fear coupled with unfathomable incompetence from a medical professional who simply should have known and done better.

The incident, that only recently came to light, took place in September 2008 and while it is cold comfort to this victim who today carries horrible scars, thankfully due to a dedicated team effort in Thailand there have been ongoing improvements in medical knowledge and training that hopefully will avoid this kind of outcome in the future - though there remains a long way to go.
What is certain is that jellyfish stings in Thailand and the region are common and the best prevention is being prepared.

We talk about it a lot but something like that endured by this poor woman could have been avoided by wearing a lycra suit - even just a long sleeve rashie top like those commonly worn across Australia that are readily available. A full length suit obviously provides better protection with legs being particularly vulnerable.

Get your tan - if you must - when sunbathing on the sand then cover yourself, as you would if SCUBA diving, when you enter the water.

Having a bottle of vinegar with you at the beach is a cheap investment in safety that is the first line of defence against a jellyfish sting - splash it liberally over the sting area for at least 30 seconds to stop the jellyfish tentacle from injecting more potentially lethal venom.

The good news is that it's unlikely you will end up a headline. However this humble little blog will continue to write a few to help make sure this continues - as we know 'Stings Happen!'


  1. wow...this persons arm looks more like some kind of a cut instead of stings from the tenticles of a jellyfish. In looking at some of the other photos of j-fish stings, none look like this one, in that none of the other ones look like they had to be sewn up with stitches.

    1. In this particular case Bill, a physician in Thailand had made such a mess of the treatment that the unfortunate victim was forced to undertake surgery. You're right as box jellyfish stings look more like a burn or a whip-mark. However, there a few things that can occur post-sting. The dermo-necrotic component of the venom kills the flesh and depending on medical treatment can eat away the skin. Secondary infection is quite common with these stings and once again, depending on medical treatment, can cause further problems. This is one such case. This is what can happen if a sting victim receives ill-informed or simply incorrect treatment from an ignorant doctor (plenty out there), or if the victim chooses not to properly follow up with proper treatment.

  2. Here is a long story. I had a sting just like this in Malaysia when I was twelve. watching the skin bubble and blister and multiply was horrifying. The pain excruciating. Closest hospital was 45 minute drive away. The resorts doctor on duty refused to leave the meeting he was in. Took 20 minutes till he finally almost 1 1/2 hours later got to the hospital. Doctors were surprised I was still alive. When I got back home. Hospitalized straight away as my arm and chest had swelled up to double the normal size. Spent months going back and forth from hospital to have my scabs removed surgically as the scabs were attaching to the scar tissue.did this weekly. Had one in the crease of my arm. So my arm was stuck in a bent position. Took months to get full movement again. Now 15 years later I have keloid scars on my arm with full movement and strength back. Sorry for the looking story. But thought I would hare my experience.

  3. in 2011, i went to an Island in Thailand, Koh Lipe, i was stung really badly by a box jelly fish when i was sitting in the sea with my arms against the sand. The jelly fish came along, i obviously didn't see it so i didn't move. It came and scraped my arm. I was immediately in excruciating pain. Within minutes my arm had turned purple. However the locals knew what to do. They got me to the nearby doctor very quickly on a motorbike. Gave me vinegar and special mixture of leaves to put on my arm. Within an day or so i was fine. later came back to the hotel and the dive master told me they had caught the jelly fish and told me it was a box jellyfish. They kept it in a bucket. Dumped the jelly fish, smashed it and covered it up with sand. What i think really helped was the vinegar and the fact that the i didn't jerk my arm towards the jellyfish when it stung me. Meaning less tentacles got me. 5 years later and i have a great story to tell!

  4. Jelly fish are terrifying!
    I got a fright today when I was snorkelling and fixated on a pretty fish when I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was kind a horror movie, it was a blue jelly fish only centimetres away from my face. I panicked and flipped and flapped my tail out of there as quick as I could. Its only now after researching "blue jellyfish in Australia" that it was a good chance of was a box. I say good chance as I'm no biologist. It was square and blue. So lucky I didn't get stung.

    1. As far as I know all species of the infamous box jelly fish are transparent, so the blue one you came across was problably something else.

  5. Great blog post and really helpful...... and your blog are very interesting and inspiring.



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