Sting! Portuguese Man-of-War Warning Issued

April 22, 2010

The Department of Parks today issued a warning to the general public that Portuguese Man-of-Wars are washing up on Bermuda’s beaches in larger numbers. The sea creatures are infamous for their painful stings.

Portuguese Man o' War washed ashore on Horseshoe Bay Beach

Portuguese Man o' War washed ashore on Horseshoe Bay Beach

The Department advises that Portuguese Man-of-War tentacles that have washed up on the beach are still capable of stinging for a period of time and they should be avoided to prevent injury. Swimmers are advised to use extreme care while swimming to avoid coming in contact with Man-of-War.

If stung, the Department advises people to do the following:

  • Rinse with salt water and remove any visible tentacles from the skin (Do not use unprotected fingers/hands. Use a stick, gloved hand, towel, etc.).
  • Treat the affected areas with vinegar.
  • Apply warm water/warm compress.
  • Remove any of the remaining tentacles by applying shaving cream with something like a tongue depressor stick or a credit card.
  • Finally treatment may consist of the application of 1% hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. Please seek medical advice prior to use/application of this medication.
  • Altered level of consciousness or difficulty with breathing warrants immediate medical attention- call 911

The Portuguese Man o’ War lives at the surface of the ocean, with its float above the water, serving as a sail, and the rest of the organism hanging below the surface. It has no means of propulsion, and is moved by a combination of winds, currents, and tides.

According to National Geographic, the man-o-war’s tentacles can extend 165 feet in length below the surface, although 30 feet is more the average. They are covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures.

The video below on the Portuguese Man of War is from National Geographic:

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