With just a few weeks left before September, beach lovers in Japan are trying to sneak in a few last trips to the coast. A late summer trip to the shore means you’ll have to be on the lookout for jellyfish, but the good news is they don’t seem to be out in full force yet.
The bad news, though, is that Kanagawa Prefecture has something that looks sort of like a jellyfish but is even worse, with some people having spotted the Portuguese man-of-war. The Portuguese man-of-war is a colony of interdependent marine creatures that band together to survive and look hideous. Usually, it makes small fish its target, paralyzing and then consuming them.
They aren’t regular visitors to Kanagawa, but lastweek Twitter users found specimens washed up onshore in Shonan, the prefecture’s most popular string of beaches and recreational coastline. One was largely buried in the sand at Kamakura’s main beach, Yuigahama, and was only spotted because of its eye-catching blue hue.
As you’d expect from its name, the stings from the man-of-war pack a serious punch. The man-of-war can even continue fighting on dry land from beyond the grave, with its tentacles still potent days after death. Aside from leaving painful red welts on the skin, the creature’s toxins can affect the function of the lymph nodes, as well as the heart and lungs, which in extreme, and thankfully rare, cases can even cause death.
Because the man-of-war looks like a jellyfish, some people’s first reaction is to treat a man-of-war’s sting in the same way by washing the affected area with vinegar. Despite their somewhat similar appearance, though, the man-of-war and jellyfish are completely different creatures with different toxins, and pouring vinegar, or even room temperature fresh water, onto a man-of-war sting will speed up the toxin delivery and make things worse.
Instead, the stung area should be rinsed with salt water, then with water heated to 45 degrees Celsius, which will help to break down the toxins and ease the pain. It seems like a trip to the hospital wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
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