Portuguese man-of-wars sting beachgoers in South Florida

HOLLYWOOD, FLA. (WSVN) - It’s that time of year when a certain sea creature — the Portuguese man-of-war — leaves its painful mark on beaches across South Florida.

November to April is the season for man-of-wars, when strong east and southeast winds push them onto South Florida beaches.

“This membrane here,” said Hollywood Marine Safety Chief Bruce Wilkie. “It’s usually a little higher, but it’s kind of shriveled a little bit, and that’s what catches the wind.”

Hollywood Beach treated many people stung by man-of-wars, Sunday.

“It feels like you’re paralyzed, a burning sensation,” said one man, describing the sea creature’s sting.

“A woman told me she had had five kids, and she’d rather give birth again than get stung by a man-of-war again,” said Wilkie.

Some people were stung in the water, and many people were stung in the sand. A purple warning flag was up.

“Sometimes you get kids running around stepping on them, popping them, and they still sting you,” said Wilkie.

The stings come from long tentacles, and they can be easy to miss.

“It’s dangerous for the baby,” said Armine Mecif, who was visiting from Canada. “So I’ve been clearing them, throwing them to the garbage, and I’ve been burnt a couple times.”

The sea creature was named “man-of-war” because it looks like an 18th century Portuguese sailing ship.

Beach patrol officials said vinegar can be dabbed onto a man-of-war sting to help relieve it.

If you get stung and have symptoms like swelling in the throat or eyes, seek medical attention immediately because you may be having an allergic reaction.

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