Man o'war stings on rise in South Florida

Number of stings expected to dwindle after cold front hits

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As tourists and locals continue to swarm the beaches of South Florida for the holiday season, they're greeted by a not so friendly fellow visitor -- the man o' war.

Fort Lauderdale Ocean Rescue Chief Breck Ballou said the number of reported man o' war stings is staggering.

"In the past week, Fort Lauderdale Beach has seen over 500 stings," he said.

The purple flags warning of the sting risk are posted on every lifeguard stand, but that's not stopping beach-goers from jumping in the waves.

"We practice on a lake back home so it's nice to get beat up by some real waves," Canadian lifeguard Jesse Elf said.

Elf is part of a group of lifeguards from Canada who are in South Florida to train during their off season, but some of them are leaving with more than just a tan.

"I definitely have a cool war story to tell when I get back," John Carey, who was stung by a man o’ war, said.

Ballou said most of the stings are minor and can be treated quickly with a little vinegar.  

Fort Lauderdale isn't the only shore line affected. Hollywood logged 144 stings in two days and Sunny Isles Beach is averaging 20 stings per day. Meanwhile, Miami officials have recorded more than 1,000 stings since Friday.

While beach-goers are asked to use caution over the next few days, there is hope of relief in the new year as a cold front is expected in the coming days.