Beware the beach: Portuguese man o' war washing up on South Florida shoreline

Hundreds treated for man o' war stings in South Florida

By Sanela Sabovic - Reporter

DANIA BEACH, Fla. - Portuguese man o' war are washing ashore South Florida beaches, and hundreds of people have already had to be treated for painful stings.

Local 10 News reporter Sanela Sabovic spotted numerous man o' war Tuesday at Dania Beach.

The sea creatures can easily be stepped on, so lifeguards are warning beachgoers to be on the lookout and check in with them.

Purple flags have been raised at South Florida beaches, warning the public that the blue multi-cell organisms are populating the beach.

Ocean winds are blowing man o' war toward the shoreline.

The sea creatures are actually a colony of animals, not just one animal and use tentacles with venomous stinging capsules to capture their food. 

They typically wash ashore during high tide, which is normally early in the morning around 7 a.m. or so, and around 7 p.m. 

Winter is the season for their arrival, with the peak in February.

Lifeguards in Dania Beach said they have treated hundreds of people for stings in the past week alone -- nearly 200 people just over the weekend.

It was the same situation over on Hollywood Beach, where more than 200 people were treated for stings in the past few days. 

Lifeguards said beachgoers should be vigilant and pay particular attention to where they are stepping, because man o' war are still active while they are on the beach.

People are also advised to look out again for the purple flags during this time of year.

Lifeguards said the flags will be up from Orlando all the way down to the Florida Keys. Stings are rarely dangerous, but can be very painful.

The danger comes if people are allergic. Generally, those who are allergic to bees might have the same reaction to a man o' war sting. 

Lifeguards said the sea creatures will die on the beach when they lose their pigmentation, so they will no longer be bright blue, but clear. 

The season typically wraps up during springtime in South Florida. 

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