If you are planning on a trip to the ocean this summer, you need to be aware of sea lice. Generally harmless, these pests can be quite irritating when provoked.
The basics of sea lice
Sea lice are thought to be juvenile jellyfish. Basically invisible to the naked eye, they are harmless the majority of the time. They are found off the coast of Florida, specifically in Palm Beach County where the Gulf Stream comes near the beach. The little pests have a tendency to cling to bathing suits, and when the clothing rubs against them, they will sting the wearer. Sea lice stings will cause irritation, redness, and welts, but these symptoms may not appear until several hours after a person is attacked. Symptoms can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and can be accompanied with more severe symptoms like fever and nausea.
How to prevent getting attacked by sea lice
Since you cannot see sea lice, it can be difficult to prevent them. The best thing to do is to talk to the lifeguard on duty before going into the water or wet sand to find out if sea lice are posing a problem that day. If a sea lice warning has been posted, stay out of the water and wet sand to avoid getting stung.
The other ways that you can avoid being attacked by sea lice is to wear sunscreen and smaller bathing suits. Some topical sunscreens will prevent attacks, and wearing a smaller swimsuit will offer fewer places for the sea lice to become trapped, and thus, present fewer occasions where the sea lice will sting in self defense.
What to do if you are attacked by sea lice
If you are attacked by sea lice, you can expect to suffer from skin irritation, welts, and even flu-like symptoms. Antihistamines, like Benadryl, and hydrocortisone creams can help relieve the itching. You can also find specific sea lice treatments at some drug stores.
When attacked, get out of the water immediately, remove your bathing suit, and rinse off with fresh water. This will remove any trapped sea lice and prevent further stinging. Do not shower with your swimsuit on, as this can irritate any remaining trapped sea lice, causing them to sting again.
Once showered, towel dry and put on loose-fitting, dry clothing. Treat symptoms with over the counter medications as needed. If symptoms worsen or do not improve, or if it is a severe sea lice attack, see medical attention. Beach lifeguards may be able to offer tips on treating sea lice and/or where you can go for medical assistance.
Pets and sea lice
Pets that go swimming can be exposed to sea lice as well. Rinse pets thoroughly with fresh water upon leaving the beach. Sea lice stings can be treated with cortisone treatments, however, it is best to contact your veterinarian for advice and dosing information.
Sea lice are a bothersome part of spending the day at the beach. However, with proper caution and prevention, you can avoided becoming stung by sea lice and enjoy your summer vacation.