Stinging sea lice warning posted at some Florida beaches

People who took a dip in Florida's waters are complaining of an itchy rash, which is being determined as sea lice.

On Tuesday, lifeguards along Pensacola Beach posted purple flags, which warn visitors about the presence of risky marine life, including sea lice, according to the Pensacola Beach Lifeguards.

In some cases, people can experience a severe reaction, including fever, chills, headaches and nausea. The lice haven't been reported in other Gulf Coast beaches; Panama City, Destin, South Walton and Gulf Shores are all flying yellow flags, indicating the presence of potentially risky surf but no unsafe marine animals.

Sea lice, despite the name, is not actually lice. Since sea lice sting humans when they are trapped beneath clothes, women and girls may be better off in a bikini rather than a one-piece bathing suit in the water.

Scientists discourage the use of the term because it can cause confusion - there is a parasite that only affects fish also called sea lice.

Sea lice are often reported between the months of March through August and are prevalent along 250 miles of Florida beach, from the southern Atlantic coast to the Florida Panhandle. They're visible to the naked eye, but they virtually disappear when in the water - so avoiding them is impossible.

Wash your bathing suit thoroughly with detergent and then use heat to dry it. Air drying isn't enough. One man says he felt the sting.

Stings from the tiny jellyfish can cause a red rash, generally called dermatitis, with red, itchy or burning bumps that appear within four to 24 hours after exposure.

"Not to go above your knee length in the water", Kapatch said.

Do not swim when "sea lice" are present.

Wear sunscreen, it may help reduce contact with the larvae.

Treatment for dermatitis caused by sea lice can include an antihistamine, such diphenhydramine, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or an oatmeal bath.

Shower right after swimming in the ocean - make sure your bathing suit is removed before showering.

Vanessa Coleman

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