Unusually large numbers of Portuguese man o’war marine animals have been washing up on Irish beaches from Donegal to Cork and Irish Water Safety has issued a warning to bathers to exercise extreme caution.
Local authorities in Donegal, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway and Mayo have reported them on their shores mainly in south and southwest facing bays.
The stingers of the Portuguese man o’war remain venomous even after death, and contact with the skin can result in severe repercussions up to and including death.
This is the worst Portuguese man o’war infestation off Irish coasts in over 100 years and appears to have happened because of a combination of tropical air and slack northerly winds which have led to the waters off the west coast warming to 15 degrees over recent months, creating an ideal setting for the venomous organisms.
In a statement Irish Water Safety warn that surfers, kite surfers, swimmers, kayakers, divers and walkers need to keep a vigilant eye open for these creatures which give a very strong sting and to some people can cause anaphylactic shock or seizures.
It also issued the following advice for members of the public who come in contact with one of the creatures:
Ensure you don’t get stung yourself when aiding others.
• Remove any attached tentacles with a gloved hand, stick or towel.
• Do not rub the affected area, this may result in further venom release.
• Rinse the affected area with sea-water - do not use fresh water, vinegar or urine.
• Apply a “dry cold pack” to the area - ie place a cold pack or ice inside a plastic bag and then wrap this package in a t-shirt or other piece of cloth.
• Seek medical attention if there is anything other than minor discomfort. Note the sting can cause anaphylactic shock, if you are feeling unwell go to A&E for treatment.
Irish Water Safety added that spring tides caused by a new moon on Saturday will see larger areas of the coast exposed to man o’ war, and beach-goers in the south, west and northwest have been warned to avoid them.