Media release from the Ministry of Health

Kiwis appear to seeking help online for summer misfortunes, with the Ministry of Health's website seeing a spike in the number of people searching for information on jellyfish stings, wasp and bee stings, spider and insect bites.

Between 24 December 2018 and 6 January 2019, the number of people heading to the Ministry of Health's website for advice on jellyfish stings more than tripled (up from 264 to 853 on the previous two weeks). Those looking for information on bee and wasp stings shot up 86 percent (1,423 to 2,640), insect bites increased 73 percent (from 645 to 1,115) and spider bites rose 39 percent (from 2,712 to 3,764 ).

The Ministry of Health's website ( provides information on how to avoid and treat different types of bites and stings, how to identify what caused the injury, and how to know when you need to seek professional help. It also contains information on many other common health conditions.

As you'd expect, most people appeared to manage any bites and stings themselves and didn't need to go an additional step of ringing Healthline to speak to a health professional for advice - Healthline reported only the usual number of calls related to bites and stings over the same period.

Stings and bites can range from mild irritations to serious, even life-threatening, wounds. Some people who are especially sensitive may develop a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. It is important to call 111 for an ambulance if you or someone else has been stung and has symptoms of a serious allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.

A total of 3,764 people accessed information on spider bites between 24 December 2018 and 6 January 2019. Although it’s rare for significant problems to result from a spider bite, the katipô, redback and white-tailed spiders can be harmful and should be avoided. If somebody is bitten you should try to catch the spider and take it with you when you seek medical help.

During the same period, more than 850 people accessed information on jellyfish stings, to help them identify what had stung them, and the best way to treat the wound.

Fortunately New Zealand has to date avoided the rash of bluebottles currently invading beaches in Queensland Australia, with thousands of people being stung there over the past week. It is worth noting that the treatment of a bluebottle sting is slightly different to that of other types of jellyfish.

If you need to treat a bluebottle sting, follow these steps:

  1. Splash on lots of sea water straight from the sea immediately. 
  2. Pull the tentacles off with a dry towel. Wear gloves if you have some. 
  3. If you can, pour over warmed up sea water. You can put hot water into the sea water to add warmth. 
  4. Immerse the stung area in heated tap water for 20 minutes. Have it as hot as the person can bear. Or use a wet, hot towel. 
  5. Elevate the area, apply ice packs and take pain relief.

Follow these steps to treat stings from other jellyfish:

  1. Apply sea water to the area. If you are able to warm up some sea water, pour this over the area (even urine is better than nothing!). 
  2. Do not apply fresh water as this will activate the stingers. 
  3. Pull the tentacles off with a dry towel. Wear gloves if you have some, but you can use your fingers – although wash them immediately afterwards. 
  4. Immerse the stung area in heated tap water for 20 minutes. Have it as hot as the person can bear. Or use a wet, hot towel. 
  5. Elevate the affected area for 24 hours, and apply ice to decrease the pain 

It's important to remember to stay safe in the sun and water this summer. Always supervise children near water and remember to slip on a shirt or into shade, slop on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat and wear wrap-around sunglasses, to lower your risk of getting sunburn and skin cancer.


The Ministry of Health website has more information on bites and stings:

Visit the Sunsmart website for information on how to stay safe in the sun.

Visit the
AdventureSmart website, for advice and resources on how to enjoy water activities safely.

If however you do have any concerns, Healthline is available anytime, free on 0800 611 116 for advice and information from a trusted health professional.

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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