They may look beautiful, but the blue blobs that have been turning up along South Florida’s beaches for the last week or so are actually bothersome Portuguese men-of-war (M-O-W). And you better beware of the baloon-ish creatures; believe it or not, their tentacles can jet out up to 30 feet. Although their venomous stings are rarely dangerous, they are painful none the less.
Doctors are reporting that hundreds of beachgoers have been treated for fiery stings from the nasty sea pests in the last week alone.
M-O-W, also called men o’ war, can be encountered both in and out of the water, and no matter where they are they can cause quite a jolt to both humans and pets.
The bloated shape, reminiscent of a war ship, gave the Portuguese man-of-war its name. The inflated area is actually a gas bladder in the complex animals. Lurking inside the seemingly simple creatures is an entire colony of different species working together to become the M-O-W. For example, one of the species is working as the gas bladder and another performs as the tentacles – who knew?
The M-O-W are coming ashore thanks to ocean winds that are blowing the naughty blue stingers onto the beaches. Lifeguards are warning of the risks by raising purple flags, which signify dangerous marine life could be present.
If you do get stung by a man-of-war, do not try to remove the creature’s tentacles from your skin with your bare hands. Instead, get a towel or piece of clothing and peel the tentacle away from the place of contact. Be sure to rinse the area thoroughly with salt water. Warm to hot water may help ease the pain as could a pain-relief ointment.
You may want to alert a lifeguard. The beach professionals carry knowledge of treating M-O-W stings as well as medication if needed.
As mentioned, Portuguese men-of-war stings are usually just a painful nuisance, but if you are allergic to bees, you should be especially cautious. Those with a bee-sting allergy are much more likely to have a M-O-W allergy. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you may have an allergic reaction to a Portuguese man-of-war sting.