Tread water softly this weekend
Potential beach goers this weekend have been warned to be aware of a swarm of Portuguese Man-of-Wars have landed at beaches in Waterford and Cork.
Irish Water Safety confirmed sightings in Tramore, Ardmore, Inchydoney and Schull so far. With a promising weather forecast for the weekend swimmers, surfers and families enjoying the beach are at a high risk of encountering them. Other aquatic users will be at a lesser risk and there is a risk that they may drift further north depending on wind direction.
The Portuguese Man-of-War is not a jellyfish, it is a siphonophore, which is an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.
Stings from Man-of-Wars usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like, red welts on the skin that normally last two or three days after the initial sting, though the pain should subside after about an hour. Detached tentacles can cause as much pain as ones attached to the Man-of-War.
However, the venom can travel to the lymph nodes and may cause, depending on the amount of venom, a more intense pain. A sting may lead to an allergic reaction. There can also be serious effects, including fever, shock, and interference with heart and lung function. Stings may also cause death, although this is extremely rare. Medical attention may be necessary, especially if pain persists or is intense, there is an extreme reaction, the rash worsens, a feeling of overall illness develops, a red streak develops between swollen lymph nodes and the sting, or either area becomes red, warm and tender.
The best treatment for a Portuguese man-o-war sting is to avoid any further contact with the Portuguese Man-of-War and carefully remove any remnants of the creature from the skin, taking care not to touch them directly with fingers or any other part of the skin to avoid secondary stinging.
Apply salt water to the affected area but not fresh water, which tends to make the affected area worse. Then follow up with the application of hot water (45 °C) to the affected area, which eases the pain of a sting by denaturing the toxins.
If eyes have been affected, to irrigate with copious amounts of room temperature tap water for at least 15 minutes, and if vision blurs or the eyes continue to tear, hurt, swell, or show light sensitivity after irrigating, or there is any concern, to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Vinegar is not recommended for treating stings. Vinegar dousing increases toxin delivery and worsens symptoms of stings from the nematocysts of this species. Vinegar has also been confirmed to provoke hemorrhaging when used on the less severe stings of nematocysts of smaller species.
Man-of-wars are found, sometimes in groups of 1,000 or more, floating in warm waters throughout the world's oceans. They have no independent means of propulsion and either drift on the currents or catch the wind with their gas filled floats. To avoid threats on the surface, they can deflate their air bags and briefly submerge.
Further details at http://www.iws.ie/guides-page52707.html
Read more about jellyfish on our blog.