The death of a 17-year old boy in Cape York has prompted CareFlight to urge Territorians to remain alert and always be prepared to respond to venomous stings.

“It’s so important to remain alert when you’re out and about, particularly in remote areas, and equip yourself with the skills to prevent death or disability from venomous stings and bites,” CareFlight Flight Nurse Stacey Birtwistle said.

The warning comes just days after a new report showed the Northern Territory has the highest rate of hospitalisations from venomous animals in the country.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports the Territory’s rates of hospitalisation are almost double those found in other states and territories.

“Territorians stung by venomous marine animals in particular are hospitalised at more than twice the rate of residents in other areas of Australia,” Stacey Birtwistle explained.

“It’s a timely reminder that all Territorians should know how to avoid and respond to these life-threatening incidents.”

Royal Darwin Hospital and Menzies physician, Professor Bart Currie, says children are particularly at risk from severe stings.

“All 14 deaths from box jellyfish in the NT since 1975 have been in children, most in shallow water soon after entering the sea,” Professor Bart Currie said.

“Given jellyfish can be almost invisible in the water, it’s important to avoid entering the sea and swimming during the stinger season from October 1st through May 31st each year. At any time of year if you are entering the water –a stinger suit or other protective clothing is recommended,” Bart Currie advised.

In the last year, CareFlight has responded to almost 40 venomous bites and sting incidents across the Northern Territory.

“It can be difficult to identify which species of jellyfish has caused a sting, and in the tropics there is always a risk that venomous stings are from potentially lethal box jellyfish, so the priority must always be to preserve life and immediately call 000,” CareFlight’s Stacey Birtwistle said.

“In line with Australian guidelines, we recommend that vinegar is applied to the site of a sting for 30 seconds to neutralise invisible stinging cells, and that any remaining tentacles are picked off. If vinegar is unavailable, pick off any adherent tentacles and apply a cold pack or ice in a dry plastic bag for pain relief,” Stacey said.

“Symptoms of a dangerous sting might include pain and muscle aches in the limbs, chest and abdomen, fast or irregular heart rate, difficulty breathing, sweating, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Always keep the victim at rest and under constant observation, ready to commence CPR as necessary.”