Most people think of the Portuguese man-of-war as a jellyfish. However, it is not a jellyfish, which is a single organism, but rather it is a colonial organism and is made up of many minute individuals called zoolids. The zoolids a very highly specialized and are similar to other solitary animals, however they are attached to each other and physiologically integrated to such an extent that they are incapable of independent survival.
The Portuguese man-of-war is composed of four types of polyps, a gas filled bladder, which enables it to float on the ocean, an interesting fact is that the bladder is filled wood up to 14% carbon monoxide. The other three polyp types, each have a different specialized activity; defense, reproduction, and feeding.
The Portuguese man-of-war lives on the surface of the ocean and since it has no means of propulsion it moves by the actions of winds, currents, and tides.
The best treatment for a Portuguese man-of-war sting is:
- To avoid any further contact with the Portuguese man-of-war and to carefully remove any remnants of the organism from the skin (taking care not to touch them directly with fingers or any other part of the skin to avoid secondary stinging); then
- To apply salt water to the affected area (not fresh water, which tends to make the affected area worse.
- To follow up with the application of hot water (45 °C/113 °F) to the affected area from anywhere between 15-20 minutes which eases the pain of a sting by denaturing the toxins.
- If eyes have been affected, to irrigate with copious amounts of room-temperature tap water for at least 15 minutes, and if vision blurs or the eyes continue to tear, hurt, swell, or show light sensitivity after irrigating, or there is any concern, to see a doctor as soon as possible.