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Sunburn blog

Before you set up your picnic spot on the beach, make sure you know how to treat sunburn as well as blue bottle and jelly fish stings in case one of your family members comes back screaming from the sea.

First Aid for Sunburn

Sunburn can range in severity from mildly uncomfortable to serious. It can cover a large portion of the body and is often complicated by heatstroke. For minor sunburn, give first aid as follows:

  1. Get out of the sun and gently sponge the area with cool water or cover with a wet towel to relieve the pain.
  2. Drink sufficient fluids.
  3. Pat the skin dry and put on a medicated sunburn ointment or lotion (however be careful as these can cause an allergic reaction in some people). Apply the lotion according to directions on the package.
  4. Protect burned areas from further exposure to the sun.
  5. Don’t break any blisters as doing so may cause infection. If large areas of the skin begin to blister, get medical help.
  6. If the person begins to vomit, or develops a fever, keep him/her as cool as possible and get immediate medical help.

Bluebottle and Jellyfish Stings

If once accidently brushes against a tentacle on the beach or in the ocean, several million cells may inject toxins into the skin during contact. This will most probably feel very painful.

Signs and symptoms:

  • A burning pain at the site of the sting.
  • A whip-like swollen, red lesion, which should heal within a day or two.
  • Sometimes raised red lesions may form blisters and leave scarring and increased skin pigmentation.
  • Secondary bacterial infection may occur.
  • Rarely a systemic reaction may occur with symptoms such as widespread itching, vomiting, headaches and muscle spasms.


  1. Rinse the affected area with generous amounts of sea water; (do not rinse with fresh water, as this will activate the poison).
  2. Do not rub the area; however, you may remove any remaining stings by scraping them off with a flat object such as bank card, blunt knife, etc.
  3.  The juice of vygie leaves (usually found growing on the beach), vinegar, alcohol, surgical spirits and human urine may help to neutralise the toxin. Anti-histamine cream or calamine lotion will also help to reduce swelling.
  4. A very hot shower or bath for about 30 minutes will help alleviate the pain since heat breaks down the poison, but be careful not to burn the patient.
  5. Aloe ointments are said to be soothing when applied after the bath.

Note! If the patient has muscle spasms, headaches, nausea, vomiting and widespread rash, seek medical attention immediately

With reference to:

St. John Ambulance Saving Lives, First on the Scene Level 1, 2006 edition.

First Aid for the South African Home, Office and Outdoor: Level 1-3, by Linda Buys, Struik Publishers, 2005.





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