Horseneck bathers suffer Portuguese man-of-war stings

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Horseneck Beach offered relief from the heat for huge crowds drawn there late last week — and something much less pleasant.

A least a dozen bathers reported receiving Portuguese man-of-war stings at the beach last Thursday and Friday. According to one published report, a girl was treated and released at the hospital for a reaction to the sting (neither beach officials nor the state Department of Conservation and Recreation returned phone calls about the situation).

Although no public alert was broadcast about the Portuguese man-of-war visitation, caution signs were posted at the beach pavilion.

Harbormaster Richie Earle said "we had some a couple weeks ago in the west river about a mile and a half up on a high tide." And in Westport Harbor, he said that a couple of Portuguese man-of-wars washed up on Howland Foster's beach.

"They usually pop in once or twice a summer."

The Portuguese man-of-war, a jellyfish-like creature that is actually a colony of organisms, drifts with the wind and currents and is typically found in warm waters. The recent weather pattern, which has featured persistent on-shore southwest breezes, may have helped drive some in from further out at sea.

From the surface, a Portuguese man of war, with its sail-like bladder, resembles a partially inflated clear or light blue plastic bag blowing along the sea surface. Tentacles containing stinging cells dangle below.

The best treatment for man-of-war stings is to wash the affected area liberally with saltwater. Don't use vinegar or alcohol as with some other stings, advises the website 808jellyfish, as these can worsen the symptoms. If symptoms don't ease due to reaction, medical attention is advised.

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