Super scary Portuguese Man-O-Wars are showing up in New Jersey

Visitors to beaches in New Jersey could be in for a weird and possibly dangerous situation this summer. Wind and the Gulf Stream current are pushing Portuguese Man-O-Wars out of the water and onto the sand, and while interesting to look at this, these giant dudes pose a very real safety threat.

The Man-O-War looks like a jellyfish, but it’s actually a venomous siphonophores. At a foot long, five inches wide, and with a tentacle that can reach of up to 165 feet, they are seriously not messing around. Even when they appear to be dead, a sting from their tentacle can cause shock and even death.

“Symptoms are usually localized (pain where contact was made), but in some cases there can be muscle and joint aches, or even confusion and respiratory distress,” Marine Science Professor Matthew Landau told Accuweather. “In extreme cases, a victim may go into shock, which in deep water will lead to drowning.”

These guys are often pushed towards the eastern U.S. coast during the summer, as currents move them away from their usual tropical hang-outs. The Man-O-War can’t propel itself, so it’s at the mercy of the tides and wind. A gas-filled float keeps them at the ocean surface, kind of like a tentacled buoy that is in no way there to help you. Essentially though, if you’re in their path they can’t re-direct themselves so it’s up to you to move out of the way.

If you see one of these brightly colored guys on the sand, keep far away. Even if it appears to be dead, it can sting you. If you are stung, rinse the area with saltwater and vinegar or isopropyl alcohol. Don’t touch the tentacle if it has stuck to you, but use a stick or key to lift it off your skin. Hydrocortisone cream is also a must while the wound is healing.

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(Image via Shutterstock)