Portuguese Man of Wars are washing up in Cocoa Beach

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Portuguese Man Of Wars

Sure, they have amazing colors, look pretty cool, and get a ton of likes and comments when you post their picture on Facebook or Instagram…try not to touch them because they pack a punch!

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The city of Cocoa Beach just posted this article in their daily email:


Marine stings are on the rise early this season. Be aware, and be prepared when out on the beaches.    

Visitors to local area beaches may observe what may first appear to be floating plastic bottles or balloons in the surf zone and washed up on the beach. This is the typical presentation for a common type of relative of the jellyfish family known as a Portuguese Man of War.

The Portuguese Man of War is a  translucent blue, gas-filled sac with a gelatinous clump of multiple organisms at the bottom. This “balloon” often has a  long tentacle or multiple strands of tentacles that are composed of thousands of stinging cells.  These tentacles can invoke a very painful and intense sting upon contact with your skin.  This sting can even occur after the animal is dead and drying out in the sun.

Should a sting occur, follow these simple steps:

Remain calm: the sting is very intense but will typically subside in 5-10 mins after the stinging process has stopped

Rinse the area: immediately with seawater to remove any tentacles that are still attached. The tentacles have a spider-web type consistency that may need gentle friction to remove from the skin.  This could probably be best performed by scraping the tentacle from the skin with a card such as a room key or credit card. A cloth such as a T-shirt or soft towel may be gently wiped or scraped in one direction away from the center of the body, using a clean part of the cloth for each pass. The stinging process will stop once all tentacles are removed. Be careful as you can be stung on the hands while assisting another person.

Look: for other signs and symptoms. Most people will tolerate a sting very well and will be back to normal within 30 minutes after rinsing and cleaning off all the tentacles. If a sting covers a large area of skin, especially infants and small children, then an emergency could exist and you should call 911 and seek further medical attention. Signs and symptoms of a severe reaction to look for would be shortness of breath, scratchy throat, swelling of the face and hands, or a rash that appears all over the body even in areas away from the sting site.

Pain relief: after all tentacles have been removed, there are several remedies you can try. Regular seawater is best, as any remaining microscopic stinging cells may remain on the skin. Liquids other than seawater may actually trigger those cells to induce a secondary sting so removal of the tentacles prior to rinsing with anything else is key.  Ice is very beneficial in reducing swelling and numbing the area directly.  Vinegar has been widely accepted as a quick remedy, as well as some commercially available sting creams.

Post-sting treatment: the sting from a Man of War will typically leave marks that will appear as dots in a line across the skin. These marks will usually heal in 2-3 days. Be aware that these marks should not be rubbed or scratched as secondary infection could occur, especially in children. Consult your physician or pharmacist for advice on over the counter anti-itch medications.

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