Portuguese man-of-war can pack a powerful punch

December 28, 2016

Don’t touch or come in contact with the blue “bubbles” that wash on shore

Many interesting things wash ashore along the beaches of South Walton. Often we find interesting creatures within the beach wrack and the tide often washes in beautiful seashells.

However, there is one creature, the Portuguese Man o’ War (Physalia physalis), also known as man-of-war, or bluebottle that is not a fun critter to come in contact with. Although spectacular to behold with its blue “bubble,” it is not safe to touch and can pack a powerful sting, both in the water and after it has washed ashore. The long tentacles can still sting even though the man-o-war appears to be dead.

The man-of-war, like other well-known jellyfish, with its conspicuous float and trailing tentacles, according to scientists is not a true jellyfish (true jellyfish are belong to the class Scyphozoa). Furthermore, the man-of-war is not a single animal. It is actually a colony of numerous organisms called polyps (or zooids).

If you are stung, although very painful, the sting is rarely fatal. Here is a guide to dealing with a man-o-war’s sting:
• Pick off any visible tentacles with a gloved hand, stick, or anything handy, being careful to avoid further injury.
• Rinse the sting thoroughly with salt water to remove any adhering tentacles.
• Apply ice for pain control.
• Irrigate exposed eyes with copious amounts of room temperature tap water for at least 15 minutes. If vision blurs, or the eyes continue to tear, hurt, swell, or are light-sensitive after irrigating, see a doctor.
• Do not rub any creams, alcohol or vinegar on affected areas.
• If the sting is severe or victim appears to have additional symptoms seek medical assistance.

Information courtesy South Carolina Department of Natural Resources