Posting on their Facebook page earlier today (June 18), the Phuket Lifeguard Service said, “Warning to all beach swimmer Portuguese man-o-war found on Nai Yang beach, Mai Kaow Beach and Patong Beach. If you feel painful on your skin. It may caused by their sting. Please see Lifeguard for Treatment.” (See post here.)
During the southwestern monsoon season, Portuguese man-of-war, or blue bottle, are often found along Phuket’s west coast. Their venomous long tentacles deliver a painful sting, which is powerful enough to kill fish.
Stings usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like, red welts on the skin that normally last two or three days after the initial sting, though the pain should subside after about one to three hours (depending on the biology of the person stung).
However, in some rare cases the venom can travel to the lymph nodes and may cause symptoms that mimic an allergic reaction including swelling of the larynx, airway blockage, cardiac distress, and an inability to breathe.
Other symptoms can include fever and shock, and in some extreme cases, even death, although this is extremely rare.
Treatment for a Portuguese man o’war sting usually begins with the application of poured salt water to rinse away any remaining microscopic nematocysts. Salt water is used as fresh water has been shown to cause nematocystic discharge.