Arrival of Portuguese Man O’ War on Fire Island
The PMOW is a sea creature that resembles and behaves like a jellyfish, although from a different family. The PMOW has a floating body, and attached to its undercarriage, long tentacles with microscopic barbed stinging cells. A PMOW sting is extremely painful, and if left untreated, could cause a systemic reaction. When in contact with human skin, these stinging cells can penetrate the skin of the individual to release venom, which can lead to serious injury. The danger of the sting is proportional to the age of the individual and the area stung. Because of surface area and skin integrity, children and women, respectively, are at greater risk for injury.
Symptoms vary based on a variety of factors, and include: immense pain at the sting site; abdominal pain; chest pain; changes in heart rate; headache; muscle pain/spasm; numbness/weakness; difficulty swallowing; raised/red/soft tissue injury at sting site(s); runny nose/watery eyes; and collapse.
History/Mechanism of Injury should follow standard approach and include patient’s age, weight, and overall condition, vital signs, location of sting site, best approximation of time stung. EMS providers should follow applicable protocols for presenting signs/symptoms and treat accordingly, including encouragement of people to go to the hospital for emergency department evaluation.