SCRN’s Tripp Girardeau contributed to this report.
Swimmers on the South Carolina coast are cautioned about the Portuguese man-of-war or Blue ‘Bottle’ Jellyfish, not often seen in these areas, now spotted floating around some Lowcountry beaches. Marine biologist Pearse Webster of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources explains, “A Portuguese man-of-war typically will look quite a bit like an inflated plastic bag. If you blew up a Ziploc bag it would almost give a similar appearance.”
Webster says that a Portuguese man-of-war’s natural habitat is around the Gulf Stream but the effects of the wind make it possible for the creature to move into South Carolina surf zones. He says unlike jellyfish which can propel themselves, man-o-war just move with the wind and the tides.
The sting of the man-o-war is more intense than that of a regular jellyfish. Repeated stings and the size of the tentacles can impair someone’s swimming abilities. Plus they have a unique ability which enables them to sting someone far away.
“They can extend and retract the tentacles. So the tentacles might just be down a few inches or they may extend down to about 60 feet, ” says Webster.
Officials say that if someone gets stung, do not use vinegar as that could make the sting worse. Webster says the safest thing to do is to carefully remove the tentacles if they are attached to the skin. He says to seek medical attention if the stings seem severe.