Man o War on Constance Beach Louisiana

Anyone unfamiliar with the biology of the venomous Portuguese man-of-war would likely mistake it for a jellyfish. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it’s not even an “it,” but a “they.” The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.

The man-of-war comprises four separate polyps. It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail. Man-of-wars are also known as bluebottles for the purple-blue color of their pneumatophores.


The tentacles are the man-of-war’s second organism. These long, thin tendrils can extend 165 feet (50 meters) in length below the surface, although 30 feet (10 meters) is more the average. They are covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures. For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, but rarely deadly. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting.

Muscles in the tentacles draw prey up to a polyp containing the gastrozooids or digestive organisms. A fourth polyp contains the reproductive organisms.

Man-of-wars are found, sometimes in groups of 1,000 or more, floating in warm waters throughout the world’s oceans. They have no independent means of propulsion and either drift on the currents or catch the wind with their pneumatophores. To avoid threats on the surface, they can deflate their air bags and briefly submerge.

A man of war sting can be very painful. Each tentacle contains thousands of tiny spikes that are used to inject poison. The severity of the sting depends on how much of the tentacle brushes against your skin. The sting causes a burning pain and welts, possibly accompanied by muscle weakness, and sometimes also pain and swelling of nearby lymph nodes. Breathing difficulty and chest pain are possible. The pain can be alarming but it’s rare that one would need to see a Physician although some people may be allergic to the sting. If you see a red line forming from the sting to a lymph gland you should see a Doctor.


1. Remove tentacles with a stick or something similar. Don’t touch or rub!
2. Rinse with salt water.
3. Go home if the pain is severe. The victim will likely be out of action for the afternoon.
4. Rinse affected area with hot water. This helps neutralize the poison.
5. Apply ice to help soothe the pain.
6. Take at least 3-5 Grams of Vitamin C. Vit-C is excellent at neutralizing toxin.
7. Crush vitamin C, baking soda and water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the affected areas to pull the poison from the stings.

The old vinegar treatment is no longer recommended. It’s said to work for jelly fish but may actually worsen this type of sting. The key to this treatment is the high dose of Vitamin C which we have found can stop all sorts of venom/toxin/poison in its tracks. Taking very large doses is safe, and you can spread it out to help with absorption. For example, 500mg every 15 minutes for several hours.

The above treatment seems to work quickly, usually taking about an hour for pain and symptoms to be reduced by 90%.


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