Top 5 facts about Man O’ War

Beach safety expert sheds light on animals washing ashore in Volusia County

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Small little blue balloon-type animals are washing ashore in Volusia County and while the Portuguese man o’ war may be beautiful they can pack a pretty serious sting.

Deputy Chief Tamra Malphurs with Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue joined News 6 Chief Meteorologist Tom Sorrells on Talk to Tom to discuss the wildlife stinging people in Volusia County.

Why are they here?

“The man o’ war are at the mercy of the winds and the currents. So, if we get a strong onshore wind for a few days in a row, we’ll start seeing those man o’ war. Typically, we usually see those in the spring and the wintertime when we have those onshore winds that stay with us for a while,” Malphurs said.

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Man o’ war vs. jellyfish

Malphurs told Sorrells man-of-war and jellyfish are not the same.

“Man o’ war are beautiful, they have a blueish-purple color. They have a little balloon that sticks up out of the water that you can see a lot better than you can see a jellyfish in the water. A lot of times jellyfish are pretty clear and they’re floating just under the surface. But those man o’ war, a lot of times you could see them because of that balloon-type bubble that sticks out of the water,” she said.

How do they sting you?

“Tentacles are the things that sting you. And it’s a very powerful sting, it can hurt pretty bad. It’s a very painful sting. Most of the time, it’s just a lot of pain. And it’s not anything really to worry about. They’re not life-threatening unless you have like an allergic reaction or something like that, which is pretty rare,” Malphurs said.

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How to treat it

Malphurs said it’s important to know that you could get stung at any time and to always swim in front of a lifeguard stand. That way, if it does happen, you can get out of the water and go straight to the lifeguard tower.

When you get there, she said a lifeguard will likely treat it with plain white vinegar and make sure the tentacles are not still embedded in your skin. She said if they don’t get them out, the tentacles will continue to irritate you. Malphurs said the vinegar likely won’t help with the pain and if it persists you may want to seek medical attention like she did.

“The two times that I’ve been stung, I had to go seek medical care, just because the sting was so bad,” she said.

Malphurs said you will likely know if you need further medical treatment in the first 15 minutes. If you are allergic she said you may experience trouble breathing. She said lifeguards may also advise you to get further care if your skin is extremely irritated noting, everybody reacts differently.

Dead man o’ war can sting

Even if they are dead Malphurs told Sorrells man o’ war can still sting you.

“If you ever come across one and you are on the beach and it’s washed up on shore, don’t think that it can’t sting you, because the tentacles are still there, and they can still pack a powerful sting,” she said. “We tell people not to pick them up, not to play with them. When kids come across them, they are extremely beautiful, so people, especially kids, do want to play with them, do want to pick them up, but we tell people not to do that, they can still sting you pretty bad.”

They deteriorate naturally

Malphurs told Sorrells, officials do not pick the man o’ war up off the beach.

“We let them deteriorate naturally,” she said. “They get eaten by birds and other wildlife, it’s just a natural thing and we don’t pick them up.”

So, if you are walking along the beach be careful not to step on a man o’ war.

To learn more about the sea creatures washing ashore in Volusia County check out Talk to Tom. You can catch the show every Thursday on News 6 at 5:30 p.m. or anytime on News 6+.

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About the Author:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.