There's a sting in this tale

IT'S summertime ....

And the nor'easters are blowing, bringing bluebottles to our beaches and painful injuries to swimmers who happen to become entangled in their tentacles.

When bluebottles sting, they release a powerful toxin.

Most often this venom remains localised but it has been known to travel to people's armpits and groins via the bloodstream. Fatalities are very rare but cases have been recorded (in the Northern Hemisphere).

So what's the best way to treat a bluebottle sting?

Over the years a number of different theories have been floated, including rubbing sand or vinegar on the sting, applying ice (which has long been the advice of the European-based International Life Saving Federation) or blue bags or sting cream.

Now hot water is the favoured treatment.

The optimum temperature of the water is about 45 degrees Celsius - still well below boiling point, but hot enough.

The idea is that by immersing the sting and skin layer in hot water, the toxins can be effectively de-activated.

And yes, even those dead bluebottles washed up on the beach can sting - apparently even the slightest amount of moisture has been known to re-hydrate the poison and the stingers.

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