There have been numerous sightings of the Portuguese Man o’War along Ibiza’s coast in the past month and as the wind is the power behind their ‘sail’, there may be more.

Portuguese Man o’War (Physalia physalis) are not jellyfish but siphonophores, which are colonies of marine hydrozoans – lots of small organisms living together and behaving as one. The beautiful yet dangerous creatures can look like a blue plastic bag floating in the water with their almost invisible tentacles underwater extending typically 2.4 metres, though some extend to 30 metres (that’s 6 car lengths).

Stings cause severe pain in people, leaving whip-like red welts on the skin that normally last 2-3 days although the pain should subside after a few hours.

Other symptoms include fever, shock and if the venom travels to the lymph nodes it may cause symptoms similar to an allergic reaction – blocked nose, swollen larynx, difficulty breathing and cardiac distress. In extreme cases death has occurred however this is extremely rare. Those most at risk are children and people with heart conditions.

If you spot one

  • Do not touch it. Even when dead the stinging cells can be active.
  • Alert a lifeguard or call 112.

If you get stung

  • Wearing gloves, remove the remains of any tentacles that may still be on the skin. You must NOT touch the tentacles.
  • Wash the area thoroughly in salt water (not fresh/bottled water).
  • Soak the area with warm water/apply heat to alleviate the pain.
  • Keep the affected area out of direct exposure to the sun, but do not cover the wound.
  • Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Do NOT use fresh water as this can cause more pain.
  • Do NOT use vinegar.
  • Do NOT pee on it, it won’t help and may cause further pain.
  • Do NOT scratch.

Seek medical advice if you have severe pain that isn’t going away, or you have been stung on your face or genitals.

Get urgent medical assistance if you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, severe swelling around the affected area, severe bleeding, vomiting, feeling faint or loss of consciousness