PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is warning beachgoers of the presence of Portuguese man o’ war.
Beaches across the state are flying purple flags, according to the DEM, which warn of dangerous marine life in coastal waters, such as the Portuguese man o’ war.
“Abundance is low so far, with few washing up on our southern beaches,” Katie Rodrigue, a marine biologist with the DEM’s Division of Marine Fisheries said. “They are likely coming up on the Gulf Stream from southern waters and being brought to shore by southerly winds.”
The DEM said Portuguese man o’ war is not a jellyfish, but does have long tentacles that can render a painful sting.
Beachgoers are urged to keep their eyes out for Portuguese man o’ war while swimming and walking along the shoreline.
“If swimmers see something that looks like a balloon floating on top of the water, they should stay far away,” Rodrigue said. “Once the Portuguese man o’ war gets into the surf zone, if the water is rough, the tentacles can break apart and they can continue to sting even while unattached. The sting is very painful and can leave scars on people with more sensitive skin.”
The DEM said man o’ war stings can be treated by carefully removing any remaining tentacles with tweezers or a gloved hand, rinsing the area with white vinegar and then soaking the skin in hot, but not scalding, water for at least 20 minutes.
The state plans to monitor the state’s beaches for any signs of the Portuguese man o’ war.