At least 6 people stung by Portuguese man o’ wars at beach, officials say

Water rescue officials in Oak Island are warning visitors about a series of Portuguese man o’ war sightings and stings. (SOURCE: WECT)
Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 6:14 PM EDT
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OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT/Gray News) - Officials in North Carolina are warning visitors about a series of Portuguese man o’ war sightings and stings as thousands flock to the state’s beaches for the summer season.

Oak Island Water Rescue Chief Pete Grendze said at least six people, including four children, have recently been stung by the jellyfish-looking creatures within the past week.

“We have had numerous jellyfish stings in the last couple of days and, in fact, walking the beach today in a 100-yard span I saw five of them up on the beach,” Grendze said.

Grendze says the man o’ wars tend to migrate to the area in the summer once the water warms up. He said he’s been stung before by them and described the pain as a constant burning sensation.

“It’s like a rope burn that keeps burning, so it’s nasty until you take care of it,” Grendze said. “Then, they usually clear up pretty quickly. Sometimes, they will last several days so you have to keep rinsing the area with fresh water for two to three days afterward.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that man o’ wars can still sting you weeks after they wash up on shore.

Emergency response teams in Oak Island have placed purple flags along the beach to indicate the presence of potentially-dangerous marine life near the shore. Oak Island does not have lifeguards on duty along the beach.

Grendze said anyone who comes across a man o’ war should try to stay away from it.

“Cover it up if you can,” he said. “Cover it up with sand because that way somebody else won’t accidentally step on it. Leave it alone. You’re not going to get it back in the water. Once they hit land, they’re dead, they’re done. If you do get stung, the best thing they want you to do is to flush the area. If you have vinegar, that’s the best because it neutralizes the toxin.”

Grendze said he still believes the best way to deal with a sting is to avoid the man o’ wars and not get stung in the first place.

“Just leave them alone because even though they look dead on the ground, their tentacles can still be full of venom,” he said. “So, just watch out, the tentacles could be 2 feet to 3 feet long and you won’t even see them.”

Oak Island posts updated beach conditions on the town website.