Jellyfish stings and rashes after swimming in the sea can be painful.

Rashes, stings and bites can sometimes spoil your swim at Auckland beaches, especially as the water gets warmer. Some beaches are affected more than others, and this may change from day to day.

Rashes, stings and bites can be caused by a range of sea life, some of which are too small to see. These include jellyfish, anemones and sea lice right up to the more obvious crabs, stingrays and sharks. In many cases it will not be obvious which life form was involved – so making it difficult to give generic advice.

For example, there are at least three types of jellyfish in New Zealand known to cause stings, but there are many types of jellyfish around Auckland’s shores which are harmless.

Microscopic jellyfish can sting. As they are so small and almost transparent, they can get trapped unnoticed in swimwear, or hair, while swimming. As a swimmer gets out of the sea, water drains from the swimwear and traps the jellyfish between the fabric and the skin, causing the stinging cells to release their toxin.

The consequent rash (also called “sea bather’s eruption”) is commonly reported and may not appear until well after the person has left the sea. The rash becomes itchy and sore, and can vary from mild to severe, lasting up to a week. Children and people with allergies may get more severe reactions and can become unwell for several days.

Bluebottle jellyfish sometimes occur around our coast. They produce a nasty sting and people should stay out of the water if these jellyfish are known to be present.

For more information including treatment options, see the Ministry of Health website.

If you are concerned, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see your doctor or practice nurse.


Auckland Regional Public Health Service supports Auckland Council with messages regarding health and safety on beaches and when swimming.

ARPHS is a partner with Auckland Council for the Safeswim programme, which publishes information about the health risks at popular Auckland region beaches. Information on the Safeswim website is updated regularly and covers water quality, advice about sun protection, beach hazards, dangerous animal sightings and tidal conditions.


There are specific requirements for notifiable diseases in the Auckland region.

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Last updated 7.1.2020

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