Hawaii: The Portuguese Man of War

Meet the Portuguese Man of War:

Portuguese_Man-O-War_(Physalia_physalis)It may look like a jellyfish, but in fact it is not a jellyfish. There are a few major differences. First of all, the Man of War is actually four different organisms that work together. It’s called a siphonophore or some scientific term like that. Each of the parts works together, but cannot survive independently. Unlike a jellyfish which can propel itself, the man of war just drifts on the ocean and has no other way of movement. The tentacles have venom that paralyze fish and other organisms, and although no human has died from a man of war sting, it is said to be excruciatingly painful in certain cases. Most of the time the man of war drifts in groups, and watch out because even if it is dead, it can still sting you.

Enough with the science lesson. We did not know any of this before Friday last week. It was Uncle Greg and Auntie Shaina’s last day with us, and Uncle Scott and Auntie Kristy were heading off to Maui for their 4th anniversary celebration trip for a few days. We decided to spend our last day together relaxing at the beach and pool. We all had a great time swimming together at the pool. Then, Nathan and Uncle Greg took the boys to the beach. My skin had had enough of the sun so I went to an outdoor market in the shade instead with Kristy and my mom.

After twenty minutes or so, Auntie Kristy got a phone call asking for vinegar right away. Elias had been stung by a Portuguese Man of War while playing in the ocean. I hurried back to the beach and found Nathan in the hot tub with Elias and got the full story.

Apparently, Nathan had been playing up on the beach with Simon, while Uncle Greg and Elias were running in the waves and throwing nuts into the water. Uncle Greg noticed a dead fish floating in the water. Elias got out of the ocean, and when at the shore, both he and Greg noticed something wrapped around his leg. Uncle Greg went to remove it, but before he could, Elias did it himself, and immediately started limping up the beach toward Daddy. Nathan said he was very visibly upset and in pain, but he couldn’t tell what was wrong so he took him up to the showers to wash off the leg.

When Nathan was done washing off the leg he saw a large red welt twisting down Elias’ leg from the knee to the foot. Baba who showed up (probably due to hearing Elias’ cry) said it looked like a man of war sting. He had seen one before because his older brother was stung when they were young. Two of the hotel staff happened to walk by and confirmed. They suggested soaking it in warm water and applying vinegar. Hence the hot tub.

Nathan said Elias calmed down pretty quick while soaking in the hot tub so that advice was great. Not too long after, I showed up with Auntie Kristy and the vinegar. Later in the evening, we read that some people think vinegar is not good for it because it speeds the process of the venom, but other articles recommend it. We do know the hot water worked its charms, though.

Poor Nathan was sitting in the hot tub in the full sun in the middle of the day and looked like he was going to wilt. Elias finally said he was ready to get out, and he sat with me in the shade for a long time after that.

P1200625All in all, he came out fine. I’m sure it was super painful, but most sources say the man of war stings only are painful for about an hour, and that seemed to hold true with Elias too. After sitting with me for an hour or so he turned to me and said, “I caught my own jellyfish! And it stung me!”

Elias has been proudly sharing his story with anyone he can. He told it to his swimming instructor, and his preschool teacher. I’m not sure what they thought.

During his recovery period, Elias wanted to take a bunch of pictures with my camera. I have all sorts of pics on there, but this one was especially cute. He wanted to take a picture of Auntie Kristy and Uncle Scott, and I helped him hold it steady.

P1200620By Saturday morning it was all just a memory. The large welt turned into just a red line running down his leg. This picture does not show the whole sting because of the way that it twisted around his leg. The sting had a bunch of spots behind his knee, then the long twisty line down his leg, then a couple of lines on his foot. But this gives you a general idea:

P1200649It was all just another adventure to add to the list for this trip, but we are very thankful that there was no permanent damage.

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One Response to Hawaii: The Portuguese Man of War

  1. Renee says:

    Wow what a trooper. Thanks for the science lesson and the history lesson too. Had no idea my dad was stung when he was young. I will have to ask him about it now. Love the photo of Scott and Kristy. The one of you and Elias is fantastic as well. You both look happy to be together.

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