Portuguese Man of War – what you need to know

Anyone unfamiliar with the biology of the venomous Portuguese man-of-war would likely mistake it for a jellyfish. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it’s not even an “it,” but a “they.” The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.

It is covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures. For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, but rarely deadly. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting.

 This species’ sting can be very painful if encountered by people. When there are large numbers of individuals in an area, it is best to avoid swimming.

THE FIRST AID

  • do not rub the affected area
  • do not wash with freshwater or alcohol
  • do not apply compresses
  • wash with seawater and carefully remove any tentacles glued to the skin
  • apply baking soda mixed in equal parts with seawater
  • apply vinegar

Jude Jones
Volunteer at Teatro Metaphora – Associação de Amigos das Artes
European Solidarity Corps  
To know more: https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en


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