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Florida panhandle officials warn Mississippi spring breakers of man o’ war infestation

Photo courtesy of the NOAA

With spring break beginning this week for many, officials on the Florida Gulf Coast are warning visitors of an infestation of Portuguese man o’ wars.

The Portuguese man o’ war, while often mistaken for a jellyfish, is actually a species of siphonophore that can be much more dangerous than the typical jellyfish. According to officials, a sting from a man o’ war can result in hospitalization and sometimes death.

“Statistically, one in about 10,000 people will have an anaphylactic-type allergic reaction to that where it closes up the airways,” South Walton Fire District (SWFD) Beach Safety Director David Vaughn said. “So, think bee stings needing an epi-pen or something like that, like a peanut allergy.”

SWFD also provided the following instructions for what to do if stung:

“SWFD lifeguards recommend using warm water, NOT ICE, to relieve the pain of a sting. If you have white vinegar available, you can distill it with warm water for pain relief. If you begin experiencing a severe allergic reaction, such as breathing difficulties, call 9-1-1 immediately or alert the nearest lifeguard.”

Currently, there are thousands of Portuguese man o’ wars on beaches along the Florida panhandle.

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