COCOA BEACH, Florida - Hundreds of stinging Portuguese Man-of-War that have washed up along the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach over the last week (December 23 through December 31) are responsible for an increasing number of patients being treated by the Cocoa Beach Fire Department rescue crews and Brevard County Ocean Rescue lifeguards.
According the the Cocoa Beach Fire Department, the increase in stings may be due to an extended period of east-to-southeast winds blowing Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish out of their usual habitat into near shore waters. These conditions coupled with unseasonably warm weather that has drawn larger than normal numbers of visitors to the beach has prompted public safety official to issue a notice warning beachgoers of the hazard.
The Portuguese Man-of-War is typically characterized by a translucent blue and purple gas-filled body that floats at the surface. A stinging tentacle cluster mass under the body can have tentacles that may extend up to ten or fifteen feet typically upwind of the body.
Safety officials advise that swimmers avoid these marine animals because their sting can be very intense, and may adversely affect sensitive individuals or those with underlying medical conditions with more severe reactions. Furthermore, officials advise to not touch or disturb any jellyfish even when found on the beach as they may remain potent after dying or drying out in the sun.
Most stings, although extremely intense, are relatively minor and will subside after a few minutes. Sometimes the tentacles will remain stuck to the skin and it will help to physically remove them as soon as possible from the victim with a gloved hand, towel, or dull edge of a plastic card. Rinsing the area of the sting after removal of any sticking tentacles is advisable.
If you encounter a sting that results in fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, scratchy throat, or hives that occur on skin in areas away from the site of the sting; These symptoms may be indicative of a more severe reaction. You should immediately call 911 and contact the nearest lifeguard if possible.