Beware of Sharks and…. Sea Lice???

If you plan on heading to the beach this summer, take note; sea lice outbreaks have been on the rise along the coast of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and into Texas. The Caribbean has also reported increased problems with the creature.

What are Sea Lice?

Sea lice, are not actually lice. Instead, they are the small larvae of adult jellyfish that inhabit the warm waters near shore. They are about the size of a speck of pepper, and they contain stinging cells called nematocysts. While they are visible to the naked-eye out of the water, they are invisible in the water, making it very difficult to tell whether or not you are stepping into a trap.
During the summer months, very large groups of sea lice swarm together in “blooms” travel together. However, sea lice are around each year, typically between April and August.

Symptoms of Contact

These tiny jellyfish are also known as seabather’s eruption for the stinging sensation they cause when they make contact with your skin. Most people break out in an itchy, red rash in the area where they have been stung. Intense itching, sometimes for several weeks, may occur.
Some people may experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, nausea, or headache that typically go away within a few days. Contact your doctor if you experience flu-like symptoms with rash.

Care

Before entering the water: You might try applying over-the-counter lotion advertised to protect against the most common stingers; jellyfish, sea lice, fire coral, and sea nettle.

If you have been stung: If the symptoms of a sting are uncomfortable, most people receive relief by using an over-the-counter allergy medication that contains an antihistamine. Topical hydrocortisone also helps. Contact your doctor before using any medication.

MORE TIPS: Since contact with sea lice often occur as you are removing your swim clothes, it is a good idea to rinse off before removing your swimsuit. Since sea lice cling to clothing, the less you wear in the water, the better. Many people think wearing shirts, and shorts on top of their suits will protect them. However, this often only causes more places for the lice to hide and cling.

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