Child suffers excruciating sting from picking up a Portuguese man o'war as hundreds invade English beaches

A CHILD was left in agonising pain after picking up a Portuguese man o'war as hundreds of the jellyfish-like creatures have washed up on British beaches.

Lifeguards have now issued a warning after the youngster was injured after coming across the sea animal while rock-pooling.

Portuguese man o'war – also known as the floating terror – have an extremely powerful sting that on rare occasions can kill.

The sea creatures are not true jellyfish but siphonophores, which are colonies of hydrozoans – lots of tiny marine organisms living together and behaving collectively as one animal.

They get their name from the balloon-like "sail" that floats above the water, which was said to resemble a type of 18th century warship.

Beneath the surface its trailing tentacle-like polyps can stretch 160ft – the length of five London buses – which they use to paralyse prey such as small fish.

A stranded Portuguese man o'war looks a bit like a deflating purple balloon about the size of a Cornish pasty with blue ribbons attached.

What to do if you are stung by a Portuguese man o’ war

  • The Portuguese man o' war has long tentacles which deliver a venomous and sometimes deadly sting.
  • Stings from a man o'war result in severe dermatitis and in rare cases can be deadly.
  • The NHS says if stung by a jellyfish you should rinse the affected area with sea water and remove spines from the skin with tweezers or a bank card.
  • Do not pour on vinegar, pee on the sting, apply ice or a cold pack, touch any spines with your bare hands or cover or close the wound.
  • Do soak the area with very warm water, take over the counter painkillers and most importantly, get help straight away.


The child was hurt on Bantham Beach, near Plymouth, Devon, where lifeguards said more of the creatures are currently washing up.

Locals in Devon have spotted them at Bantham Beach, Whitsand Bay and Bovisand Beach.

A spokesperson for the RNLI said: "Today lifeguards have had reports of these Siphonophore's (an animal made up of a colony of organisms) washing up onto our local beaches.

"We're advising to avoid them in particularly their blue tendrils which can inflict some excruciating pain when touched."

Earlier this year hundreds of the deadly creatures were blown onto English beaches by Storm Ciara.

In February the Friends of Portheras Cove in Cornwall posted on Facebook to say several had been found on local beaches.

"The winds are already bringing in some interesting visitors ahead of this weekend's impending Storm Ciara," said the Portheras Cove group.

"Take care as there are some Portuguese-Man-O-War jellyfish being stranded."

In 2019 three Benidorm beaches had to be closed after the deadly fish washed up on the sand.

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