Marine stingers are found in the warmer waters of Tropical Queensland year round with the highest occurrence in ‘stinger season’ from October to May. There are simple precautions that you can take to minimise your risk and swim safely.
Most tour operators will provide you with protective stinger suits which look similar to wet suits and will protect you from a potential sting. If you are stung you are advised to pour vinegar over the affected area and seek medical attention immediately. Tour operators and patrolled beaches with lifeguards will generally keep vinegar for such incidents.
There are two kinds of stingers in the Great Barrier Reef: the Irukandji Jellyfish and the Box Jellyfish.
The Irukandji are small jellyfish with venomous stings that can cause serious illness and even death in rare cases. They can be as small as your thumb or as large as the palm of your hand and their transparent appearance makes them hard to spot in the water. If you are to get a sting from an Irukandji Jellyfish then you are advised to seek medical attention immediately by calling 000.
Most people who have been stung by the Irukandji have reported only feeling an initial sting like a mosquito bite before symptoms are felt. Common symptoms include vomiting, severe pain in the back, limbs or abdomen and a rapid heart beat. If medical attention is sought immediately then most patients will recover in 24-48 hours.
Box Jellyfish are less common but are larger in size and are easier to spot in the water ranging from 10cm- 30cm tall. The pain from the sting is immediate and typically feels like a hot burn as the tentacles wrap around your skin. Vinegar is needed to minimise the sting. Again if you believe that you may have been stung, please apply vinegar and seek medical attention by calling OOO.
Crocodile are very common in the waters of North Queensland from Gladstone to the Cape York Peninsula and some people have been calling for the population to be culled in recent years. They are typically found in waterways, rivers, estuaries and swamps and on occasion in beaches and islands in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait.
The advice is clear: obey crocodile warning signs at beaches, creeks, rivers and estuaries. Even if there are no signs, never swim in waters that you believe may be home to crocodile. Extra precautions should also be taken at night and during their breeding season from September to April. If unsure, the locals or the staff at Visitor Information Centres will be more than happy to help you to ensure that you stay safe on your holiday.