Portuguese Man O’War off the Irish Coast Recently

What to do if your unlucky enough to get stung by one.

Information provided to us by Ocean Videographer Ken O’Sullivan.

[vimeo id=”185832610″ align=”center” mode=”normal” maxwidth=”700″]Some talk in the Irish media about what to do if stung by one of these, but I’m not sure they’re all correct, maybe because we haven’t seen these animals too often. I was lucky to work with Professor Angel Yangihara from the University of Hawaii on a jellyfish documentary, she’s probably the world’s leading scientist on cnidaria (jellyfish) toxins. If stung by a PMOW this is what Angel advises:


  • Get out of the water
  • Pour (white) vinegar over the sting area
  • Then apply water as hot as you can take it (40-45 deg C) for 20-40 mins if possible
    If you don’t have hot water bring and use heat patches.


  • Pee on it (or ask someone else to:-) – it doesn’t work
  • Wash off with sea water – the tentacles will roll and sting more skin
  • Scrape the sting with a credit card or pen – this causes more stinging capsules left on the skin to fire

Now opinions differ on whether ‘to scrape or not to scrape’, I met another expert who said use sand or if you don’t have that, try a towel soaked in seawater.

To all my surfing friends, wearing gloves mightn’t be a bad idea for the next while, but remember, for the most part you can see them at the surface unlike other jellyfish (even though they’re not technically jellyfish!).

While it’s worrying to see these animals close to our shores, some of the reactions have been a little over the top (“I’m never getting in the sea again in Ireland!”) … we spent five hours at sea covering 150 square miles and saw just one animal. I’ve asked some experts about how long their tentacles are, but the truth is no one knows, there are suggestions of 5 metres or more but all I can say from my experience of them in different parts of the world, the tentacles I’ve seen were less than a metre, the one in this video was about 50cm when extended.

Just my opinion in good faith, don’t sue me if it doesn’t work!

Please pass on this info if you can.

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