The RNLI has released guidance following a record number of sightings of Portuguese Men O’ War along the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Photo by Celia Hicks
According to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, there have been an "unprecedented" number of sightings on beaches in Cornwall, with 144 reported in three days. Perranporth beach has been closed for the last few days due to a recent influx.
There have also been a high number of sightings around the islands, including at Porth Hellick on St Mary's, Great Par on Bryher and St Agnes.
Nikki Banfield from the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust posted on Facebook: "Because they predominantly rely on wind to get around you're only likely to find them in areas with onshore winds. I've taken photos of quite a few on Sharks Pit, Porthloo, Halangy and Innisidgen the past few days but you should be okay swimming places like Watermill, Pelistry."
The RNLI said that Portuguese Men O' War washing up on beaches is not unusual, particularly after windy conditions.
It added: "If sighted, do not touch... Treatment involves removing the tentacles by hand or by spraying with seawater, and immersion in or application of hot water to relieve the symptoms.
"In the majority of cases further medical treatment will not be necessary, but those with any complications or serious stings should be advised to seek further medical assistance."
Last year, Scilly's doctor John Garman offered advice on what to do if stung by a Portuguese Man O' War.
He said: "The best advice is to avoid them, but just in case anybody does get stung, here is the official line on first aid:
1. Remaining tentacles should be lifted (NOT rubbed) off with a towel or stick. Do NOT rub with sand.
2. Rinse the wound with saline NOT fresh water.
3. Apply an ice-pack. This is an effective topical analgesic.
4. The use of topical treatments to inactivate unfired stinging cells (including alcohol, meat tenderisers and baking soda) is controversial, but unlikely to be of benefit. The application of vinegar is no longer recommended as this may initiate nematocyst firing
Apologies if number 4 sounds a little medical but the first three are the most important!
Obviously if you need further advice please contact the Minor Injuries Unit at the hospital."
The Portuguese Man O' War is not a jellyfish but a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together. It has long tentacles covered in venom-filled nematocysts which can paralyse and kill fish and other small creatures. A Man O' War sting is rarely fatal but can be extremely painful.
The Marine Conservation Society has asked to be informed of sightings. This can be done via its website.