Just when you were gearing up to go to the beach for some summer fun, a new public warning is out, complete with purple flags, concerning sea lice, which also goes by the lovely nick name “Sunbathers Eruption.”
This one’s going to irritate you. Literally.
If you’re heading to Pensacola or anywhere in Northwest Florida, you’re going to want to check this out.
First thing’s first — What are the little boogers? According to Wikipedia, Sea lice are marine ectoparasites (external parasites) that feed on the mucus, epidermal tissue, and blood of host marine fish.
Guess who the “host” is in this case though? Hint–They’re land dwellers.
Not to be confused, sea lice are not actual lice (which typically take up residence on an unsuspecting person’s head). In this case, in Florida’s waters, sea lice are usually the larvae of the thimble jellyfish and jellyfish cells.
The Florida Department of Health cautions that it is better to not wear a t-shirt or a one-piece bathing suit in infested waters to prevent the larvae from becoming trapped near the skin. There is also evidence that sunscreen can help protect the skin from stings.
People affected by sea lice may feel a prickling sensation on their skin while in the water, but the rash caused by the microscopic organisms typically occurs several hours after exposure. The rash is just an itchy nuisance for most. But some people can experience a severe reaction that includes fever, chills, headaches, and nausea. The good news is that the rash usually goes away in 7 – 10 days.
If stung by sea lice or other jellyfish, the National Institute of Health recommends applying vinegar to the skin to prevent further discharge of unfired nematocysts. People stung can treat the rash with antihistamines and over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams.
Sea lice are typically found in the warm waters of the Caribbean and on the Gulf Coast and have been reported at beaches in Panama City, Destin, South Walton and Gulf Shores. They typically are a threat from April until July.
To read more about this tiny monster, go check this article in USA Today.