Treatment for Portuguese Man of War Stings

In our Hawaii safety guide we discuss the Portuguese man of war, or blue bottle, one of the sea creatures you want to avoid on your Hawaii vacation. It’s difficult to resist the temptation to enter the water when they’re around, but it’s best to pack up and head to another beach.

portuguese man of war

A man of war sting can be very painful. Each tentacle contains thousands of tiny spikes that are used to inject poison. The severity of the sting depends on how much of the tentacle brushes against your skin. The sting causes a burning pain and welts, possibly accompanied by muscle weakness, and sometimes also pain and swelling of nearby lymph nodes. Breathing difficulty and chest pain are possible. The pain can be alarming but it’s rare that one would need to see a Physician although some people may be allergic to the sting. If you see a red line forming from the sting to a lymph gland you should see a Doctor.

Having been stung many times, we’ve developed the following treatment plan.

1. Remove tentacles with a stick or something similar. Don’t touch or rub!
2. Rinse with salt water.
3. Go home if the pain is severe. The victim will likely be out of action for the afternoon.
4. Rinse affected area with hot water. This helps neutralize the poison.
5. Apply ice to help soothe the pain.
6. Take at least 3-5 Grams of Vitamin C. Vit-C is excellent at neutralizing toxin.
7. Crush vitamin C, baking soda and water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the affected areas to pull the poison from the stings.

The old vinegar treatment is no longer recommended. It’s said to work for jelly fish but may actually worsen this type of sting. The key to this treatment is the high dose of Vitamin C which we have found can stop all sorts of venom/toxin/poison in its tracks. Taking very large doses is safe, and you can spread it out to help with absorption. For example, 500mg every 15 minutes for several hours.

The above treatment seems to work quickly, usually taking about an hour for pain and symptoms to be reduced by 90%.

Fortunately blue bottles don’t infest the waters very frequently. They’re most common on east facing shores and won’t affect an entire island.

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