Experts warn about the dangers of the Portuguese man-o-war

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach firefighters said stinging sea creatures known as the Portuguese man-o-war have been popping up on the north side of Myrtle Beach.

These creatures might look like jellyfish, but they're actually siphonophores and their sting is severe.

"I don't think that's something I want to run into when I'm out there surfing. I think that's probably top 10 fears," said Myrtle Beach native Timmy Hunter.

Experts at Ripley's Aquarium say the tentacles of a man-o-war could grow up to 150 feet long, which is why swimmers should keep their distance.

"If you do see one, even if it's just floating in the distance, the tentacles can be closer than you think. So you'll want to make sure to stay away. Keep your distance," said aquarist Reggie Williams.

While their sting is rarely deadly, it is extremely painful. Some say it feels like being stung by 100 bees at the same time.

"Symptoms will include intense muscle and joint pain, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, collapse. So if you do get stung, you'll want to remove the tentacles as carefully and as fast as possible. So as long as the tentacles are in contact they can still discharge the venom," said Williams.

Williams says the Portuguese man-o-war sting can be treated with vinegar and sugar. The pain from a sting could last a few minutes to a few weeks and sometimes medical attention is needed.

"You're so used to see(ing) normal ones that don't sting you. It might be weird when you see one of those and don't recognize it," said Myrtle Beach native Nick Brittan.

Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue and lifeguards are warning beachgoers if they do see one to not try and move it themselves. Beach patrol should be notified instead so the creatures can be safely removed.

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