Stung while in river

envelope bumps on skinHi, Today I was swimming in the river Ouse, Nth Bedfordshire, UK as I do every summer but this time something stung me on the water. Attached is the pic. Ankle and back of knee. I felt both stings very clearly and painful enough for me to say “ow” out loud and want to get out of the water. The white bumps came up immediately. 4 hours later they faded to red dots but the burning is still very intense. Any ideas on what it could be? Bit concerned, very curious. Glad it was me and not my kids.  Many thanks.  Sarah

4 thoughts on “Stung while in river”

  1. puffin Hi Sarah, Thanks for writing. Was there anyone else swimming? If so, any indication that they were stung, too? Tom

  2. envelope I didn’t see what stung me and no one was with me. Oh, except my dog. A dad had jumped out of his inflatable boat to save his daughter, who was drowning on other side of river, leaving his son alone in a drifting boat, so I swam out and towed the boy back in. I saw about 10 people swim in that section of the river but not on the side I was in. I had been swimming in many other parts of the river that day with no strange stings. I didn’t hear anyone else complaining. I have asked locals this evening. Strangely a friend in a nearby village (same river) said her daughter said she’d seen a jelly fish while swimming this week end and that they had been teasing her ever since! I have found articles on freshwater jellyfish seen occasionally in the UK since 1880 but all the articles say there have never been any stings documented so they assume they do not sting. Thanks. Sarah

  3. puffin Hi Sarah, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. There are indeed freshwater jellyfish. In fact, I wrote an article about them years ago on a previous website ( But I don’t think they’re usually found in rivers, at least not if there’s any current. And everything I know says they aren’t capable of leaving the marks you got.

    backswimmer insectThe one thing I know of that is in the water that might give you bites like that is the small bugs called backswimmers. I’ve never been bitten by them, but apparently, they are capable of biting and it stings. Seems odd that you would have gotten bitten so many times, but do you remember seeing them in the river? Tom

  4. envelope Hi Tom, Thanks for reply. It remains a mystery! I didn’t see anything. It was on the slow current side of the river but there is still a gentle current. The stings were instantaneous on my foot and slightly later on my leg, or the other way round! But definitely not individual bites unless there was a swarm of back swimmers? Never heard of them. Will look them up. Thanks again. Sarah

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